Meet the Team: Natasha

Natasha Bradley is a research fellow at Queen’s University Belfast. Her PhD (2016-2020) used realist evaluation to explore social support interventions in palliative care. Natasha has joined Queen’s to work on this project, aiming to explain why integration of palliative care into cancer care remains difficult, and what can be done to improve integration. 

Why is this project important? 

Evidence suggests that early palliative care can improve outcomes for patients – helping to alleviate symptoms, cope better with illness, have a better quality of life, and in some cases even live longer. Palliative care might help people to avoid invasive treatments towards the end of their life, reducing the time they spend in hospital, and the associated costs of healthcare. 

This evidence has informed policies and guidelines that mandate the integration of palliative care and cancer care. However, unfortunately, many patients with cancer still do not get to access to palliative care due to a lack of integration. 

What has happened so far? 

We are carrying out a type of literature review called a realist synthesis. To meet our aims, we will be searching for evidence on how and why integrated palliative care ‘works’ in different healthcare settings and different stages of illness. We will include evidence from a range of perspectives (patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and others) and research methods (qualitative, mixed methods, and economic evaluations). We have established a group of national and international stakeholders, including policymakers, healthcare professionals, and public contributors/patient representatives, to help us with our review. 

The project started in June 2023, and I officially joined the team in August 2023. My first task has been to consider how to narrow down the large quantity of evidence that could be included in the review, to identify a manageable and meaningful selection of articles. The next step will be to extract and organise the data included in these articles. Eventually, the findings from this process will be presented to our stakeholder group, to develop recommendations about how palliative care and oncology can be integrated in practice. 

What drew me to this project?

My experiences with family members have shown me that palliative care can make a huge difference, for the person with cancer and for all the people that care about them. But coping with advanced cancer without this input makes it more difficult to control pain, manage symptoms, and plan for what comes next, potentially making a sad and challenging time much more traumatic. I wanted to work on this project because I am hopeful it can  find ways to  address this imbalance and reduce the inequity of access, so that more people can receive palliative care.

 

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