National funding for UCLan-led stroke research project

31 March 2021

The UK’s largest nurse-led stroke research team has been awarded prestigious funding to investigate end-of-life care for stroke patients.

The University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) Dr Clare Thetford and Professor Liz Lightbody will lead the team, in collaboration with Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTHTR) and institutions across the country, to research improving end-of-life care practice in stroke care.

The £142,626 grant will explore current challenges around receiving and providing stroke end-of-life-care. It will investigate what staff, patients and carers think helps and hinders current stroke end-of-life care, and what they think people need and would prefer for excellent stroke end-of-life care to be achieved.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Thetford, from UCLan’s School of Nursing which is home to the only two nursing professors of stroke care in the UK, said: “Despite medical advances, 21% of stroke patients die within 30 days of having their stroke. High quality end-of-life care and support after stroke is therefore crucial. However, stroke is different to other conditions, and can make end-of-life care complex.

“There is a lack of education and guidance for healthcare professionals responsible for providing this care. This may cause inadequate, inappropriate or delayed care and support. We will explore what specific challenges stroke may create, and how the many recent changes to general end-of-life-care might work with stroke patients.”

The National Institute for Health Research Programme Development Grant will see the Preston based institutions collaborate over the next 18-months with additional NHS trusts and several leading UK universities, including Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Canterbury Christ Church University; University of Nottingham; Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; University of Exeter; and a project-specific, dedicated patient and public involvement group.

The team will survey UK hospital stroke units to discover what approaches to end-of-life-care are currently used, talk with healthcare professionals about their views and experiences of giving stroke end-of-life care, and be guided by patients, families and clinical experts to determine the most important things needed to develop an excellent package of stroke end-of-life care and support.

Dr Thetford said: “We’ve already spoken to bereaved relatives and survivors of serious stroke to find out what they think the focus of our research should be. They will continue to be involved, ensuring that our research is relevant, moral, successful and makes a difference.”

Professor Liz Lightbody, who is leading a National Stroke Workforce group for End-of-Life Care, on behalf of Health Education England, said: “There is a view that providing end-of-life care is the role of specialist palliative care teams, but this is not the case. Good quality end-of-life care is everyone’s business, all staff involved in caring for patients following a stroke should have the knowledge and skills to provide compassionate and sensitive end of life care.

“LTHTR is committed to providing mechanisms to translate research evidence into practice and thereby influencing improvements in the quality of care.  It is providing a pivotal role in the transformational development of stroke services across South Cumbria and Lancashire and will ensure the results from this research are implemented into practice.

“Together we are at the forefront of new innovations in healthcare, so I am delighted that we are involved with this research and that local patients can benefit from access to emerging new treatment for strokes.”

Paul Brown, Head of Research & Innovation at LTHTR, added: “The Trust is delighted this study in an area which still has such a journey to make in terms of patient welfare, is beginning. The appointment of Professor Lightbody last year signalled a new era for research collaboration between the Trust and UCLan and it is great that this study cements this working relationship toward rapid improvement for stroke patients.”

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