The challenges of providing end of life care in prisons

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 ipractice.

Mary Turner and Marian Peacock

Mary Turner, Research Fellow at Lancaster University, and Marian Peacock, Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University will be discussing their research at the conference. Here they give a quick overview about why their work is crucial in br
inging benefits to patients at the end of the lives as well as to families and carers. What is the research you’re presenting about?

We are investigating palliative care for prisoners, using a methodology called action research. We have been given access to a prison that has a high proportion of older prisoners with long-term illnesses or disabilities, and we are exploring how palliative care is currently provided for this particular group of people. We will then work with staff from both inside and outside the prison to make and evaluate changes in order to improve palliative care for prisoners.

Why did we need to investigate this area?

There are growing numbers of older prisoners who require palliative care, but the prison environment presents particular challenges. There is a need for greater understanding of this complex area, to develop ways of overcoming the challenges and improving the provision of palliative care.

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

The overall aim of this research is to develop a model of palliative care that can be shared with other prisons. This model will encompass dying prisoners, their families, and other people involved in providing care and support.

How long has the research taken/will it take?

The study will take two and a half years, and is currently still in the first year. It will be completed by the end of November 2015.

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

The study is designed in two phases. In the first phase we are doing a series of interviews and focus groups with prison staff (such as prison officers, governors, chaplains, family liaison officers, volunteers), healthcare staff (prison nurses, palliative care staff, GPs etc) and prisoners. In the second phase we will work with groups of staff to make changes aimed at improving palliative care; these changes will be evaluated as part of the research.

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

So far there has been very little research about palliative care for prisoners, so this study is one of the first. At the end of this study we will be able to identify areas where further research is required. 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.