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Academic Palliative Care Unit will help “ensure that care provided to patients and their families is at the level of the best” – independent study

Extensive consultation with stakeholders and a consensus on the overarching aim to ensure patients with complex symptoms receive the best care have been important factors in the establishment of UK's first academic palliative care hospital in-patient unit, a preliminary independent evaluation of stakeholder views has found.

The Academic Palliative Care Unit (APCU), is an innovative and ground-breaking 12- bedded in-patient unit for patients with the most complex, high-dependency palliative care needs and their families, which opened to patients at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital's NHS Trust a year ago this January.

The APCU "will help to drive forward the evidence base for palliative care and ensure that care provided to patients and their families is at the level of the best", says the report.

The study, led by Professor Barbara Jack of the Evidence-based Practice Research Centre in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at Edge Hill University, aimed to explore the views of key stakeholders as to their vision for the APCU. It adopted a qualitative, case study approach with two elements; firstly, one focus group comprising nine members of the hospital specialist palliative care team including doctors, nurses and social workers and, secondly, semi-structured telephone interviews with eight key stakeholders. The study was conducted before the opening of the Unit, to examine the vision for the Unit and the anticipated benefits and challenges it would bring.

Commenting on the importance of consultation in developing the Unit, a respondent who was part of the core development team, said:

"I think the, from the moment we had the idea, we've driven it as a core group within the organisation and within the [Marie Curie Palliative Care] Institute to make this a reality, but we have had extensive discussions with various stakeholders in order to get to this point, so testing out the idea in terms of our community colleagues across the health economy, we've done some work with advancing quality, we ran workshops, we've spoken to community groups, relative and carer, bereaved relatives we've shared it right through, just at the ideas stage, through the quality governance framework across the Trust to get some sense of other people's perspectives on this, what challenges they thought that this would bring"

There was a general consensus across all respondents that the overarching focus for the APCU, was to ensure that patients with complex symptoms were to be managed by specialist staff and therefore ensure they receive best care.  One respondent further expanded on the care, stating:

"I would see it as a place where patients who are approaching the end of their life, whatever stage of that journey they're on up to dying, receive the best care that anybody could deliver based on evidence and research and expertise and skill and knowledge"

Other key themes in the findings included; the impact on potentially reducing hospital in-patient length of stay, the value of a dedicated environment, benefits for the organisation, research opportunities and potential challenges facing the unit and measures of success.

The study found that careful planning and consultation had resulted in clear identification of challenges to be addressed, such as admissions criteria and clear communication with patients and families regarding the focus of the unit and enabled them to be, in the main, addressed pre-opening.

Aidan Kehoe, Chief Executive of the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

"Our Academic Palliative Care Unit is the result of the vision and 10-years' hard work from our dedicated team and reflects the high priority we place on Palliative and End of Life Care here at the Trust.

"This independent study demonstrates how the APCU will ensure that the care we provide for patients and their families is at the level of the best, something which has also been reflected in the Care Quality Commission rating our End of Life Care as Outstanding.

"Providing the best care for our patients and families, whilst doing research and evaluation, to further improve care in the future is fundamental to the success of the APCU so it is pleasing to see this very positive independent evaluation."

Click HERE to view the study online