Marie Curie offers £1 million to fund vital end of life care research

 Sabine-BestEvery year Marie Curie makes £1 million available to fund palliative and end of life care research which aims to improve care for people with terminal illnesses. The funding is part of the annual Marie Curie  Research Programme, which was established in 2010 to help address gaps in research funding and support the wider palliative care community. This year we have decided to focus on three specific areas, and are asking researchers to submit proposals on these themes.

1. Pain control at home

Many studies show that the preferred place of death for most people is their home. But symptom control at home can be challenging. The National Bereavement Survey (VOICES), first published in July 2012, highlighted that relief of pain in the last three months of life was lowest at home (17% ‘completely all the time’) and highest in hospices (62%), with hospital (36%) and care homes (45%) somewhere in between. The results of the second VOICES survey carried out one year later found a very similar trend. Relief of pain at home was highest for those who died of cancer compared with cardiovascular disease or other conditions.

2. Symptom control at the end of life

Marie Curie has an ongoing interest in improving the management of symptoms at the end of life. In particular there is a lack of good quality evidence on artificial hydration and nutrition at the end of life in any condition. We are looking to fund research in this area, taking into account the views of patients, carers and families.

3. Addressing the needs of potentially excluded groups at the end of life

Access to palliative care can be improved for everyone, but for some specific groups of people, and in some circumstances, access is particularly poor.  For example, pain control in older people is worse than in younger people. People with conditions other than cancer may have poor access to palliative care, as may people from ethnic minorities. Marie Curie is inviting research proposals for studies looking at age, gender, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity; race (ethnicity); religion or belief; sexual orientation; cognitive impairment; culture or lifestyle; socio-economic status; mental capacity; diagnosis; location and setting where care is received; and the choices patients make about their care. To simplify the application process for researchers we have introduced an outline application stage for the first time this year. The deadline for outline applications is 17 January 2014. Find out more about the process  . In previous years we have funded research on topics as diverse as end of life care for patients with stroke; end of life care for prisoners; a trial of ketamine for neuropathic pain in cancer patients; carers’ experience of caring for someone dying at home; and place of care and death in patients with haematological malignancies. The first set of studies – funded in 2010 – will soon start to report their findings. We are looking forward to telling you about the results then. For further information on research themes or how to apply for research funding, please visit our research programme page  .