Who Benefits from Palliative Care?

Categories: Care and Featured.

What if there was a simple way to identify patients who may benefit from palliative care?

Well, now there is. The Supportive and Palliative Care Indicators tool (SPICT TM), devised by Professor Scott Murray and Kirsty Boyd, is designed to do just that.

These two Palliative Medicine specialists, affiliated with Edinburgh University, have an interest in ensuring the benefits of palliative care are made accessible to all patients with a life limiting illness.

The SPICT TM is an easy to-use one page document which guides the healthcare professional to assess their patient for unmet palliative care needs. The SPICT TM can be viewed freely here.

In early February, 2018 the Irish Hospice Foundation provided a travel bursary for three nurses from Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services, Dublin to travel to Edinburgh to participate in an international conference  to discuss the use of the SPICT TM. I work as a research nurse with the hospice and had the unique opportunity to participate in this information day, to discuss how the SPICT TM has been used both in practice and in research worldwide.

Others attending the conference had traveled from as far away as Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Korea, Israel as well as many EU countries.  All of us were united by the common goal; to discuss how palliative care can be provided to patients, irrespective of diagnosis, who currently have unmet palliative care needs.  As Scott Murray  emphasised in his plenary talk, palliative care is for ALL – all illnesses, all times, all dimensions, all settings and for all nations.

There were multiple presentations which described the different areas in which the SPICT TM was being used.  Professor Geoff Mitchell from Australia explained how GP practice nurses are using the tool to identify palliative care needs and implement advance care planning with older patients and those with a chronic illness.  From closer to home,  Dr Brendan O’Shea from the Irish College of GPs presented research on a feasibility study on how the SPICT TM in association with the Irish Hospice Foundation’s Think Ahead* form  can be used to initiate discussion and to guide care planning in GP practice.  Dr O’Shea noted there are lots of reasons why healthcare professionals do not engage in end of life conversations and none of these reasons are acceptable.

In the afternoon there were special interests group and discussion-based workshops.  These were useful as we all discussed ideas for research and implementation with colleagues from different countries and different areas of practice.  For me, it is always encouraging to find that our concerns and challenges are universal and to discover despite all our differences, we all share common healthcare goals for the patients we serve.

The day ended with a summary and a discussion on the way ahead.  My colleagues and I left the conference with renewed determination to see palliative care for all and empowered by ideas for how to achieve this.

*Think Ahead is a public awareness initiative by the Irish Hospice Foundation to help people talk about and record their preferences in the event they are unable to speak for themselves due to serious illness, emergency or deathFor more info, click here

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