End of life issues concern and touch us all, surrounded by controversies, unknowns and fears.
We conduct interdisciplinary research and teaching to explore, develop and promote practice, policy and research in palliative and end of life care nationally and internationally.
Our aim is to make a tangible difference by enhancing quality of life for individuals and families regardless of age, condition or care setting.
Current and Recently completed projects under the Palliative Care research theme include:
Public health and palliative care
We have a strong track record of undertaking research to develop and promote the alignment of public health and palliative care to improve end of life care and bereavement care in society.
This work is aligned with the EAPC reference group on Public Health and Palliative Care.
A recent programme of work, funded by the Department of Health, the HSC R&D Division and the Department for the Economy, sought to examine public and young adults’ knowledge and attitudes towards palliative care.
This was undertaken in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey (NILTS).
These studies found that despite the majority of people reporting familiarity with the term palliative care, common misconceptions persisted.
This includes palliative care only being relevant for people with cancer and exclusively within the last six months of life.
The study also reported that confusion existed around the terminology and use of advance care planning. These findings are being used to inform regional policy and the development of strategies to empower individuals, communities and society and further research.
Organisation of services and education
Working closely with service providers, practitioners and international partners, this programme of research focuses on delivery and inequalities of regional and national services such as out of hours care, end of life companions and palliative care day services.
Ensuring proactive efficient and effective out of hours palliative care provision: examining the role, contribution and impact of the HCA
A multi-disciplinary research team led by Dr Felicity Hasson, is exploring the role of Health Care Assistants within out of hours community-based palliative care and the impact of COVID-19 on the delivery. Funded by Marie Curie, the research aims to will investigate the provision of out of hour service models across the United Kingdom and the implications of the pandemic upon provision. It will also examine the role, contribution, and impact of the health care assistant in palliative and end of life care and their role in providing care after hours. Visit the dedicated web page or follow on Twitter @PallcareHCA.
Cost and effectiveness of UK palliative care day services: a three-centre mixed methods study of impact upon patients and family carers
A review of palliative care day services across the UK was undertaken, supported by Marie Curie. The project concluded that despite the clear benefit and the overall positive response to the service, great variation exists in terms of referral, content, frequency, duration, and purpose. Valuable contributions by volunteers were recorded. The study calls for future research to develop evidence-based guidelines for this approach, embedding it within a public health framework, and implement quality assurance measures.
Integrated models of palliative care
Aligned to the WHO Resolution on Palliative care there is increasing recognition of the need for earlier integration of palliative care across different settings, disease groups as well as effective symptom management.
Examining public knowledge and attitudes towards palliative care and advance care planning in Northern Ireland
Funded by the HSC R&S Office and the Department of Health Northern Ireland, this research highlighted three key themes: awareness and understanding of palliative care and advance care planning; barriers and facilitators to promoting public awareness; and future strategies to improve understanding of palliative care and advance care planning.
Developing a Palliative Care Model for People with Dementia in the Community
Ulster University, University College Dublin, and University College Cork have joined forced to develop a model for palliative care for people with dementia in the community. The work is funded by the Health Research Board and supported by the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care. Visit the dedicated web page or follow on Twitter @PallC4Dementia.
Palliative Care Provision for Carers of People with Advanced Heart Failure
Funded by the Health Research Board and All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care, this study highlighted the invisibility of carers of this population, the negative impact on their quality of life, and the large number of unmet needs. This research highlights the importance of educating health care professionals from across different disciplines and specialist areas so that they can communicate appropriately and initiate sensitive conversations around advance care planning and poor prognosis.
Developing and testing an educational intervention for the management of constipation for people with advanced cancer: a feasibility intervention study (DEMCon)
The DEMCon study, funded by Marie Curie UK and implemented in five hospices across the UK, involved the development and feasibility testing of an educational resource that demonstrated improvements in staff knowledge, self-efficacy, and competency in constipation assessment and management. This study provides a useful resource for clinical practice.
Our members sit on the European Association of Palliative Care and play an active role in the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care, Palliative Care Research Society UK and Palliative Care Forum Northern Ireland.
Professor Sonja McIlfatrickDean of the Ulster Doctoral College
Areas of expertise
- Public health and palliative care
- Psychosocial support for patients and family carers across different illnesses
- Addressing palliative care needs