As academics in palliative care in Scotland (David Clark, Marie Fallon and Scott Murray) we are delighted to see the prominent place given to research in the recently-published Scottish Government Strategic Framework for Action on Palliative and End of Life Care (2016-21). The Framework and the supporting evidence report not only draw heavily on recent academic studies, they also point to the need for a more coordinated approach to palliative care research in Scotland.
A key commitment
Days before the Framework was published in December 2015, Scottish Government colleagues, together with representation from the Chief Scientist’s Office (CSO) held a meeting in Edinburgh. A varied group of palliative care researchers was invited, from several institutions. Professor Craig White chaired the event and began by explaining that the Framework would contain the following commitment:
We will strengthen and co-ordinate research and knowledge exchange across regions, institutions and disciplines by taking further action to support the establishment of a Scottish Research Forum for palliative and end of life care.
The next two hours were rich in ideas and insights. We heard about CSO and related funding opportunities. We discussed arrangements that might encourage palliative care research. We shared ideas and knowledge about sources of support. Above all we got excited about a more joined up and collaborative approach to doing palliative and end of life care research in Scotland.
Ethos of the Forum
We liked the term ‘Forum’. We agreed that its ethos should be one of working together, sharing ideas and finding connections across disciplines and settings.
After the meeting, the three of us got into a ‘professorial huddle’ to think about immediate and next steps. There is no time to waste. We feel that the new Forum should promote work from across the disciplines. It should provide opportunities for junior and early career researchers and give encouragement to clinicians of all stripes who want to take forward research initiatives. These people should be the ones who set the agenda, advance the work of the Forum and shape its development.
We are open-minded about how the Forum might organise its business. But we have checked with the Palliative Care Research Society (of which one of us was founding chair) to ensure there is no unwanted duplication of effort. The key thing about the new Scottish Forum is that its goals must be linked to the Framework. It is both a part of and a servant to the overall aim of the Framework, which is to make palliative care available to everyone in Scotland who can benefit from it.
So what are the next steps?
We are holding a meeting in the margins of the UK Palliative Care Congress 2016, which is taking place at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow. All conference attendees are welcome to come along during the Friday morning coffee break at 10.45 to 11.15 on 11 March to put their views forward, in person or in writing. We hope that by the end of the meeting a ‘shadow committee’ will have been formed to move things forward.
If you are unable to attend yet would like to contribute, please contact one (or all) of us on the email addresses below.
After that, on 6 May 2016 at a venue to be decided in Edinburgh, we plan to hold the Forum’s inaugural seminar. This one day event will be a chance for any individual or members of research teams to set out their current work and ambitions. We hope this will lead to greater mutual awareness of what is going on in the Scottish palliative care research community. It should also be a platform for future collaboration and dissemination.
A systematic review
In the meantime, while these events are happening, we are hoping to move forward quickly with a collaboration to conduct a systematic literature review on the range and character of palliative care research in Scotland, modelled on one already carried out for the island of Ireland. Excellent research is already being done in Scotland, but we need a better understanding of where the skill sets are, who is doing what and how the opportunities for working together can be expanded.
This is a great moment for palliative and end of life care research in Scotland. Please note the meeting dates for March and May, and come along to share your views and experiences – and if you have ideas in the meantime please feel free to contact us.