Collaborative working in palliative and supportive care

This year’s Annual Marie Curie Research Conference, held jointly with the Royal Society of Medicine, will focus on palliative care in the community – making a difference in practice.


Professor Nigel King of the University of Huddersfield will be discussing his research at the conference. Here Nigel gives a quick overview about why his work is crucial in bringing benefits to patients at the end of their lives as well as to families and carers.

What is the research you’re presenting about?

I’ll be presenting about a series of studies where my colleagues and I have been investigating collaborative working in palliative and supportive care. 'Collaborative working’ refers to the ways in which different professionals and services work together and with patients and carers to provide care and support.

Why did we need to investigate this area?

Palliative care often involves a wide range of professionals who need to work together well to give the best possible care. They also need to work effectively with patients, as well as patients' families and friends who often act as crucial networks of support. If this collaboration goes wrong, at the least the consequences are likely to be less good care and a less positive experience for patients and families. At the worst, serious shortfalls and errors in care can occur.

How will the findings help people with a terminal illness or their families?

These findings help draw attention to the things that help or hinder effective collaborative working, and can inform the design of services in the future.

How long has the research taken/will it take?

The studies I will be talking about go back to the early 2000s, up to some that we finished in the last year.

Who did we talk to (and how many people) and what did we ask them?

We interviewed, across the whole set of studies, over 200 people including nurses, doctors, other health professionals, social care professionals, patients and family carers. To help people think about the often complicated networks of professional and lay support involved in palliative and supportive care, we asked them to use a visual method called ‘Pictor’ that creates a diagram of roles and relationships around a particular patient’s case.

What more do we still need to learn about this topic?

We need to follow patients and their lay and professional support networks over time, to see how the requirements for effective collaborative working change as illnesses progress to end of life. That would enable more direct testing of how different ways of organising and facilitating collaborative working can make a difference to patient and carer quality of life and effectiveness of care.

The conference will take place on 28 March 2014 in London and will be attended by Marie Curie staff, healthcare professionals, academics and others with an interest in palliative care research. Visit the Marie Curie website for more information and to view the programme. For conference updates on twitter follow the hashtag #communitypallcare.