A range of experts from palliative care, engineering, design, social sciences and public health are coming together to take a radical look at end-of-life care, in line with the launch of Marie Curie’s Design to Care Programme.

The five-year £3.5 million Marie Curie Design to Care Programme aims to build the future foundations for pioneering tailored care for people living with a terminal illness, that meets the increasing demand and complex palliative care needs of the UK’s ageing population. The programme’s end product will be a blueprint for a new type of palliative and end-of-life care service design, that is flexible enough to be rolled out anywhere in the UK for all people at end-of-life.

Marie Curie is working with leading experts from the University of Cambridge and Sheffield Hallam University who will lead the framework design phase of the programme.

Dr Stephen Barclay, Senior Lecturer in General Practice and Palliative Care at the University of Cambridge, will coordinate the research team that brings together expertise in the fields of Palliative Care, Public Health, Engineering Social Sciences and Design.

Dr Stephen Barclay, a GP and Consultant in Palliative Care from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, explained, ‘More and more people are living longer – there’ll be a 50 per cent increase of people aged over 65 by 2037 – and we will often have several illnesses and complicated care needs as we reach the end of our lives.

‘Many of us will live away from family members who might otherwise help to care for us and there’ll be more pressure on health and social care services. So designing a new framework for end-of-life care is critical work. This is a fantastic opportunity to bring heads together in a rigorous process to produce a blueprint for the future of end-of-life care.’

Professor John Clarkson brings systems design expertise to the team from the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge. Professor Paul Chamberlain and Dr Claire Craig, from Sheffield Hallam University Art and Design Research Centre, bring their expertise in co-design; using creative techniques to draw out and refine ideas to shape the design process. The team will work with people who have experience of end-of-life care services, including patients, carers, families, health and social care professionals and providers.

Professor Paul Chamberlain, from Sheffield Hallam University, said, ‘With ever-increasing pressures, a paradigm shift is needed to rethink how we deliver future health and care services. No single discipline can tackle this big challenge alone.

‘The Design to Care programme brings an exciting, diverse mix of specialists to re-imagine end-of-life care. Design, as a discipline, is well placed to help tackle the complex interdependencies of health where there is no single answer. Adopting a ‘co-design’ approach, working together, we will be able to give marginalised groups a voice in how we shape future palliative care.’

The programme will run in three phases:

  • Scoping and designing the framework – led by researchers at the University of Cambridge and Sheffield Hallam University who will work with people with experience of using or delivering services for those with end-of-life care needs, including patients, carers and health and social care professionals
  • Pilot and evaluation – the framework will be piloted in different areas of the UK to test it for feasibility, effectiveness and affordability. An independent evaluation will be carried out to make improvements where needed and increase the potential for the framework to work anywhere in the UK
  • Research and rollout – the charity will share the new framework of care which they’ve developed and learnings from research with policymakers, the NHS and other health and social care providers so that it can be adopted and rolled out across the UK