palliative care and Covid-19

The two events, supported by ARC South London, drew on some of the latest research in the palliative field from the CovPall study - a collaboration between researchers at the Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London, and the Universities of Hull, York and Lancaster - which aims to understand the multinational specialist palliative and hospice care response to Covid-19.

The first event on 15 September explored clinical themes, including the challenges of caring for people dying with or from Covid-19, symptom management, advance care planning, service innovations and inequities in service response, and the impact of the pandemic on staff wellbeing.

The first presentation was from Professor Katherine Sleeman, an ARC South London researcher based at the Cicely Saunders Institute and an honorary consultant in palliative medicine at King’s College NHS Foundation Trust. Professor Sleeman presented published findings from a multinational survey that aimed to understand how the practices of hospice and palliative care services changed during the pandemic, the challenges faced, and innovations services made responding to Covid-19.

The second presentation from Professor Irene Higginson, the lead for palliative and end of life care research at ARC South London, and Director of the Cicely Saunders Institute, explored findings from survey data and related evidence on the symptoms Covid-19 patients experienced, how these symptoms were managed and what they revealed about a patient’s prognosis.  

The final presentation from Professor Catherine Walshe at Lancaster University explored findings from in-depth interviews with specialist palliative care staff that highlighted the impact of caring during the pandemic on the physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing of staff.   

Discussing the idea of ‘resilience’, Professor Walshe said: “I’m reluctant to talk about ‘resilience’ because it seems to place responsibility on the individual staff member for their wellbeing, rather than thinking about the systemic and organisational resilience that is needed in a pandemic.”

The second event on 20 September explored the implications of the CovPall research for the future of commissioning palliative and end of life care services, involving a panel discussion with key stakeholders.

The panellists were: Professor The Baroness Finlay of Llandaff; Professor Bee Wee, National Clinical Director for End of Life Care at NHS England and NHS Improvement; Sue Bottomley, National Head for End of Life and Palliative Care in the NHS; Dr Malti Varshney, Associate Director, Clinical Networks and Senate Lead; Jonathan Ellis, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Hospice UK; Kate Heaps, Chief Executive at Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice; Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive, Together for Short Lives; and Rashmi Kumar, PPI member, Cicely Saunders Institute.

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