Key to success in improving palliative and end of life care: a hospice-university partnership

Categories: Education.

A strong partnership has existed between Queenscourt Hospice, Southport and Edge Hill University Ormskirk, for over a decade including contributing to undergraduate education of nurses, paramedics, and medical students, and hospice staff being mentored as novices in research and evaluation projects.

Dr Groves, then Medical Director, passionately believed the key to improving palliative and end of life care to the level of the best was through education.

Her vision was a dedicated master’s degree programme with core modules delivered by clinicians to frontline health and social care staff, ensuring translation of theory to practice. The underlying ethos of the programme is that good palliative and end of life care is essential, yet many health care professionals feel that they lack sufficient knowledge, confidence or skills.

Edge Hill University worked alongside Dr Groves to conceive an initial module delivered in 2017 to assess the feasibility of the partnership. This first module was a resounding success, and the partnership developed an award of a Post Graduate Certificate, followed by a full Masters programme in Integrated Palliative and End of Life Care in 2020.

During the Covid-19 pandemic delivery was remote and, following feedback from students, was validated to run the three core modules as a hybrid model, enabling students from across the UK to join in.

The three core modules include Transforming Palliative and End of Life Care (an overview of the history and current practice of palliative care), Transforming End of Life Trajectories (comparing similarities and differences in approaching the end of life and dying from all causes) and Transforming End of Life Communication and Spiritual Care (highlighting the importance and value of the interplay between excellent communication skills and attending to spiritual needs).

Modules can be studied on a stand-alone basis, as part of a post graduate certificate or a full Masters award (for information see Edge Hill University) .A novel feature of the core modules is a virtual case load of ‘Ivy Street’ residents and their associated health professionals.

Changes in Clinical Practice

Students are invited to share the impact of the modules as changes they have made in clinical practice. Examples include: “I have been able to consider why we do what we do, what we do well, what we could improve on and what the current evidence and guidelines are”


One student reported that fear in both patients and relatives had been reduced: “enabled me to be more open and honest with patients and relatives, in particular when someone is dying, using appropriate language that is better understood”

Students reported how the skills had particularly helped in speaking to families during the Covid-19 pandemic. One referred to the value of communication skills in getting “the wording correct” and gave an example of how this had helped in discussion with families surrounding anticipatory clinical management plans for care home residents, “I have been doing a lot of difficult conversations while developing ACMPs (Anticipatory Clinical Management Plans) for care home residents without capacity. I’ve felt so much more confident in how I explain things to family members, especially during Covid-19, and with how the media phrases things.”  

Other impacts on students relates to job changes and promotions, including some taking up roles in hospices and hospice education.

To date over 170 students have completed modules, including nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, paramedics, and doctors from a wide range of settings.

The close hospice-university partnership has enabled the development of an educational programme that is current and based on best clinical evidence. It is an example of education directly impacting clinical practice and improving the care of patient and families. That initial module in 2017 has now led to the Master’s graduates in 2023.

Dr Karen Groves said “Palliative and end of life care knowledge and skills, excellent communication and spiritual awareness are core to all medical, health and social care practice. Our job as specialists and educators is to ensure that every frontline clinician has knowledge, and skills, at their fingertips when needed, and knows when and how to access responsive help. We look forward to many more graduates!”

Professor Barbara Jack said, “Seeing students develop skills throughout the programme and the fast impact on clinical practice is very rewarding and it is a privilege to be part of a dynamic evidence-based programme. The long established partnership has been invaluable to the smooth delivery of the programme and shows the value of Hospices and Universities developing partnerships”


Dr Karen Groves, Education Lead, Queenscourt Hospice, Southport and Honorary Clinical Professor, Edge Hill University and

Barbara Jack Professor of Palliative and End of Life Care Edge Hill University Ormskirk

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