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Lancaster University awarded almost a million euros for research to improve palliative care

Two Lancaster University Professors are involved in a European project to evaluate an intervention which has led to fewer hospital admissions for people with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Professors Nancy Preston and Catherine Walshe from the International Observatory on End-of-Life Care are leading part of a large European Collaborative project called ‘EU PAL-COPD’, to evaluate this intervention across Europe.

The study began in January 2024, and has received over seven million Euros in funding, with almost a million euros for Lancaster University over the next five years.

The intervention – initially developed at the Royal Preston Hospital with Dr Paul Marsden – helped to improve communication between teams. This resulted in fewer hospital admissions, with people able to spend more time at home, especially towards the end of their lives.

Dr Marsden, from Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Dr Tim Gatheral from Morecambe Bay Hospitals NHS Trust are also part of the study team.

Dr Marsden said: “We were surprised how effective this intervention seemed to be in allowing people to remain at home. We really wanted to see if this would work well in other hospitals.”

Many people with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are admitted to hospital. However, they can leave the hospital with too little information or with uncertainty about further care options. They are not always referred to palliative care services, although they may benefit from such care. Communication between care providers may not be optimal and this can lead to confusion about care options, and hospital admissions that could have been avoided.

Professor Preston said: “It is amazing that we can evaluate this locally developed intervention at a European level. It is important that we are working very closely with our clinical colleagues”.

The EU PAL-COPD project, co-led by Professor Koen Pardon and Professor Luc Deliens from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, unites a pan-European consortium of experts from several areas, including medical sciences, respiratory care, community nursing, primary care, palliative care, sociology, psychology, health services, economics, and communication, supported by renowned institutions such as the European Respiratory Society, European Association for Palliative Care, Lungs Europe, amongst others.

The team from Lancaster University are leading the adaptation of this work so that is suitable to be implemented in different contexts across Europe.

Professor Walshe said: “We need to take into account the differences in healthcare in the different countries such as how healthcare is organised, and how local contexts and procedures differ, and what training is needed to help people implement this intervention.”

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