Fiona Murphy

£100k research to look at the impact of pioneering end of life care work

A new research project will focus on a pioneering scheme caring for patients at the end of their lives and their families.

Researchers in the School of Health and Social Care at London South Bank University (LSBU) working with partners from the Northern Care Alliance and The University of Manchester have been awarded a £100k grant from the Burdett Trust for Nursing to support research into an evaluation of end of life and bereavement care in the UK, before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The research team will look at the impact of the Swan model of end of life and bereavement care which originated in Greater Manchester hospitals but is now used in many different settings such as care homes, coroner’s offices, police services and in major incidents .

The research project will assess the effectiveness of the Swan model of care and the recent deployment of ‘Cygnets’. Providing end-of-life and bereavement care became particularly challenging due to the necessary cessation of visiting and infection control measures.

The Northern Care Alliance developed a non-specialist team involving redeployed and temporary staff, known as the Cygnets to deliver aspects of the Swan model of care. The term Cygnet, as a young swan, was used to identify team members as used to let people know that it was not their usual area of expertise.

The Cygnet role is to supplement and support patients in the last hours and days of life, their families and staff, with a vision to try to prevent people from dying alone. Each Cygnet is unique and has a variety of skills that range from being with the person dying, making memories and facilitate communication with families via technology.

The main purpose of the research project is to understand the beneficial effects of the Swan/Cygnet model for end of life patients and the potential transferability of this model of care to other settings.

Fiona Murphy MBE (pictured), Northern Care Alliance Director of Nursing for end of life care, said: “I am overwhelmed and proud to have the impact of our Swan model evaluated through independent research. For many years I have witnessed the impact through my own and my teams’ experience and observed its transferability. I feel privileged to have been awarded this funding and grateful for the opportunity for our future services, staff and the people we support through their grief journey.”

Heather Iles-Smith Chief Nurse for Research, Northern Care Alliance, said: “I ‘m absolutely delighted that the NCA has been awarded this prestigious funding to undertake such important research to evaluate the effectiveness of end of life care initiatives SWAN and Cygnet. As clinicians it’s so important that we not only draw from the evidence base, to inform our practice, but we also add to it when we develop new and innovative care pathways and clinical practice. This allows us to ensure that the care is effective and of benefit, and allows others to learn from our innovations.”

Dr Laura Green, The University of Manchester, said: “Evaluating end of life and bereavement care is vital if we are to develop compassionate, culturally sensitive and equitable services across the NHS. As a palliative care nurse and researcher, I recognise that it can be challenging to capture the essence of how services and individuals work together for the benefit of patients and their families. I am really looking forward to working with a team of inspiring academic and clinical partners on evaluating the Swan model of care.”

Principal Investigator Professor Alison Leary MBE said: “We are very privileged to be given this opportunity to evaluate the impact of such an important service. There is only one chance to get end of life care right. By understanding how the Swan model works and the impact it has, we can ensure more people can have access to it.”

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