Malnutrition in End of Life Care

6th March 2017

MSc scholar presents evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Patient Safety’s inquiry into Malnutrition in End of Life Care

Eating and drinking plays such a fundamental part of life; it’s how we show love and care for each other. It’s also a vital way for patients and their loved ones to connect, especially at the end of their lives.

In November MSc scholar Caroline Quilty gave evidence to the APPG on Patient Safety’s inquiry into Malnutrition in End of Life Care.  The APPG will take around 18 months to complete its inquiry and issue its report and recommendations in 2018.

Caroline is a dietitian with 25 years’ experience of working in a variety of clinical settings.  In the early 2000s she set up a dietetic service at St Christopher’s hospice in Sydenham.  In 2013 she became a specialist palliative care dietitian for St Joseph’s Hospice in East London.  While at St Joseph’s, Caroline became interested in developing her clinical skills and knowledge and heard about the MSc in Palliative Care at Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London from colleagues who were very positive about the programme.   She applied and was awarded the Professor Rob Buckman Scholarship.

Caroline writes:

“Having not undertaken any formal education for several years I was more than a little apprehensive about committing myself to 2 years of study but the programme drew me in.

I was extremely fortunate to be awarded the Professor Rob Buckman scholarship which fully funded the programme and without which I would not have been able to accept a place on the MSc. A requirement of the scholarship was to undertake a research project in a psychosocial aspect of palliative care. This was ideal in my role as a dietitian as what strikes me about working with patients in palliative care and their families is the importance of eating and drinking not just for the nutrition it provides but for the social and emotional impact it has; providing food is a way that we show love and care for each other and this can become fraught with difficulty especially towards the end of life.

I am now at the end of the 2-year part time programme and have recently submitted my Masters dissertation which asks the question “What psychosocial support can healthcare professionals provide to patients who experience weight loss due to cancer cachexia?” Undertaking this qualitative study has provided me the opportunity to really understand what is important to patients who experience cachexia and I have felt privileged at the insights that patients shared with me at a very significant time of their life.

The MSc has been a challenging and interesting experience. I have learnt how to think critically; have shared knowledge and experience with professionals at the CSI; and heave learnt from MSc students from across the world for which I am grateful. I intend to continue to raise awareness of the importance of nutrition in palliative care and look forward to taking every opportunity to do so”.