We need a fresh start to design care fit for the future

Marie Curie is working with leading experts in palliative care, engineering, design, social sciences and public health as part of the charity’s Design to Care programme. Professor Bill Noble, Medical Director at Marie Curie, explains how this exciting new programme will shape the future of end of life care in the UK.

Pioneering: Design to Care aims to look beyond what we’re doing now and rethink how end of life care could be delivered for future generations.

People are now living longer than ever before. This means a growing number of people are also living with one or more health conditions, needing extra care and support towards the end of their lives.

In these times of stretched resources, we’re now reaching a critical and urgent point where we need to think creatively about how we can meet this increasing demand for care.

Meeting future care needs

Design to Care is our far-reaching programme to develop the foundations we need to provide care for the UK’s ageing population, for generations to come.

Our vision is to design a highly practical and flexible framework that will help us, and other providers, to deliver high-quality care tailored to people’s needs  no matter what illness they might have, or where they live.

Throughout the UK, there's already a lot of high-quality care being provided for people with a terminal illness, from the point of diagnosis until their last days of life. 

Although we may have many examples of individual services working well, particularly hospices and the wonderful support they provide in their local communities, we need a major rethink in how we’re delivering care now.

We have to focus on what’s needed on a larger, national scale, if we are to meet our population’s future needs in end of life care.

Bringing diverse expertise around the same table 

To give us a fresh perspective on how we can deliver excellent care for the future, we’re collaborating with top researchers from the University of Cambridge and Sheffield Hallam University – and not only researchers in palliative care, as one might expect, but also those specialising in engineering, design and public health.

Our engineering colleagues from Cambridge will bring expertise in systems design – a method of designing complex systems, like health and social care provision, in an ordered and logical way. 

Leading designers from Sheffield Hallam will contribute expertise in using creative and artistic processes to drive the co-design element of the programme – creating the future of end of life care with those who have experience of it, and putting patients, families and care professionals at the heart of what we’re doing.

We’re also privileged to have an advisory team of renowned experts from a diverse range of disciplines – people who have made significant contribution to their field of work including senior academics, civil servants, clinicians, designers, engineers and social scientists.

Pioneering and exciting

In the coming months, researchers working on our programme will review the relevant published data and studies to uncover what’s already there and what’s needed to inform their next steps. They will also be consulting focus groups to explore what the key challenges are in how people are cared for at the end of their lives, and working together to understand what’s necessary for change to happen.

Bringing together this breadth of expertise, creativity and ideas makes our programme both pioneering and incredibly exciting.

By approaching the problem from lots of different and unconventional angles, we hope to develop unique and coherent solutions that will work well into the future, anywhere in the UK.

Professor Bill Noble is programme lead for the Marie Curie Design to Care programme. Find out more about the programme.