‘Necessity is the mother of invention’

24th March 2021

Specialist palliative care service innovation and practice change in response to COVID-19.  Results from a multinational survey (CovPall)

Researchers at the Cicely Saunders Institute, University of Hull and University of Lancaster have investigated specialist palliative care response to the pandemic, with the aim of discovering and sharing good practice and preparing for future care. 

As part of the CovPall study they carried out an online survey of 458 specialist providers. The respondents were inpatient palliative care units, nursing homes, hospital and home care teams from across the world.  277 were from the UK, 85 from Europe, 95 from the rest of the world.  

The researchers wanted to collect data about how the services had adapted and innovated in response to COVID 19.  They found that through having to operate in crisis, rapid changes were made, including streamlining of services, extending and increasing outreach, using technology to facilitate communication and implementing staff wellbeing innovations.

Researchers found that barriers to efficient working were fear and anxiety of staff and patients, duplication of effort, information overload and lack of funding.  Enablers included collaborative teamwork, staff flexibility, pre-existing IT infrastructure and strong leadership.

Researchers concluded that specialist palliative care services have been flexible, highly adaptive and have adopted low-cost solutions, so-called ‘frugal innovations’ in response to COVID 19.  In addition to financial support, greater collaboration is essential to minimise duplication of effort and optimise resources. 

The research is part of CovPall, a multinational study supported by the Medical Research Council, NIHR Applied Research Collaboration South London, and Cicely Saunders International.   

Dunleavy L, Preston N, Bajwah S, Bradshaw A, Cripps R, Fraser LK, Maddocks M, Hocaoglu M, Murtagh FEM, Oluyase AO, Sleeman KE, Higginson IJ, Walshe C.  Necessity is the mother of invention: Specialist palliative care service innovation and practice change in response to COVID 19.  Results from a multinational survey (CovPall)  Palliative Medicine.  published first online March 23, 2021   https://doi.org/10.1177/02692163211000660