Update On Our Early Findings

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death, in the UK and worldwide. The number of people who are living with cancer is expected to rise in line with an aging population and medical successes with treatment. 

Existing evidence shows there are benefits of palliative care for people who have cancer, for their quality of life, symptom burden, and health service resource use. This evidence is sufficient to conclude that integrated palliative care is useful. Even though national strategies and international guidelines promote integration, integrated palliative care is not yet standard practice. 

It remains unclear how best to achieve integrated palliative care, which should be responsive to a patient’s need, rather than their life expectancy. Therefore, this research project aims to understand how integrated palliative care and oncology works, in different healthcare settings, and for which groups of people, and develop guidance that optimises implementation and delivery.

We are carrying out a ‘realist review’ which includes a number of steps: locating existing explanations and theories, systematically searching the published evidence, extracting and organising data, synthesizing the evidence, and developing implications and outputs. Throughout the process we are working with a stakeholder group, who advise our work and help to make sure our conclusions remain up-to-date and relevant to the current context. 

The project began in June 2023. Although we are at an early stage, we have some topline findings to share. These findings will continue to be developed and untangled further, as we dive deeper into the complexity of this research topic.

Integration of palliative care in oncology is more likely when:

  • There are positive perceptions of palliative care.

  • Professionals across disciplines work together effectively.

  • There is continuity of care across different care settings.

  • There is education for healthcare professionals. 

  • Patients and caregivers receive helpful information.

Our next steps are to continue to extract and organise data and synthesize the evidence to draw conclusions about how and why integration works. 

In the first half of 2024, we will be engaging with our stakeholders to refine the implications of our findings, considering what they mean for practice, for policy, and for members of the public. Then, we will work on sharing this learning – using a broad strategy of academic publications, policy report, conference presentations, and an engaging animation. We hope that this will prove to be impactful in delivering change that we can all benefit from, across society. 

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