Yorkshire Cancer Research has announced plans to improve referrals to palliative care for cancer patients in Yorkshire.
The Harrogate charity will study the records of more than 6,000 patients who died from cancer in Leeds in order to determine the best time for patients to be referred to palliative care and identify which elements contribute most to their quality of life.
Previous research involving records from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust Specialist Palliative Care Team, Wheatfield’s Hospice and St Gemma’s Hospice shows that 30% of people who die from cancer in the city receive no palliative care at all, and those who do gain access receive it an average of just six weeks before their death.
Studies also suggest inequalities in access to palliative care services, with a wide variation in the timing of referrals across the region.
Most patients with advanced cancer prefer to die at home, but the number of people who do so in Yorkshire is below the national average. Patients are more than twice as likely to die at home if they are engaged with specialist palliative care.
Dr Lucy Ziegler, Senior Research Fellow from the Academic Unit of Palliative Care, University of Leeds, said:
Specialist palliative care services aim to relieve suffering and improve quality of life. Trials have shown that early access can improve symptoms, reduce emergency hospital admissions, minimise aggressive treatments and enable patients to make choices about their end of life care, including exercising the choice to die at home.
This study will be the first step in a programme of work which will examine how to implement earlier access to palliative care alongside cancer management. It will be followed by more research with clinicians, patients and carers to determine how to recognise that end of life is approaching, how to initiate discussions relating to advanced care plans, and how best to model palliative care provision.
Yorkshire Cancer Research, which marks its 90th anniversary this year, is dedicated to working in partnership with universities and teaching hospitals, other charities and the NHS to improve outcomes for cancer patients in Yorkshire, where people are more likely to get cancer, and more likely to die from it, than most other counties in England.