Professor Jane Seymour talks about her recent visiting scholarship to the US

Categories: Research.

The Global Visiting Scholar Awards programme supports departments or schools in hosting an international scholar who will contribute to enriching the learning or scholarship of the unit.

Prof Seymour’s award was entitled: ‘What can be done to improve care for people with advanced disease? A comparison of US and UK policy and practice’. ehospice caught up with Prof Seymour to discuss the experience.

Can you briefly describe the main differences between palliative and hospice care in the US, compared to the UK?

There is a difference in meaning and in service organization between ‘palliative care’ and ‘hospice’ in the US, with the former currently primarily located in hospitals and associated with medical care and the latter primarily located in the community and associated with nursing care.

The Medicare hospice benefit funds more than 80% of hospice activity and enables access to hospice care if patients are judged to have a prognosis of less than six months and agree to forego ‘curative’ treatments. 

In the UK, there is no clear divide between ‘palliative care’ and ‘hospice’ care and patients do not need to elect to receive hospice by explicitly forfeiting life prolonging treatments.

In what ways do you think that practitioners in these two countries can learn from each other?

In spite of very different health care systems, the two countries face similar problems in trying to improve quality of end of life care for all those facing death, with particularly intractable problems emerging around the care of frail older people. 

There has been comparatively little cross cultural debate and discussion between the US and UK about how to approach the improvement of end of life care for older people and what role the specialist palliative care field could and should have.

Much could be learnt on both sides through exchange about these issues.

What insights do you feel that you have gained from your time as a visiting scholar?

It was incredibly valuable to spend time in a different culture and have the opportunity to think in a new and different way about palliative and end of life care.

I have a much greater insight into shared international challenges and a greater appreciation that there is more than one way of approaching improvement in end of life care.   

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank Virginia Commonwealth University and The University of Nottingham for generously funding my visit and I look forward to further collaborations.

Read more about Prof Seymour’s research on the Sue Ryder Care Centre page on the University of Nottingham website

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