The Serious Illness Care Programme UK is a pioneering new approach to the care of people with serious illnesses

About the Programme

The Serious Illness Care Programme UK involves meaningful conversations between doctor and patient to identify what matters most to the patient, and their goals and their priorities as they look ahead to their treatment and care.

It is based on an approach developed by a US team led by world-renowned Dr Atul Gawande at Ariadne Labs in Boston, USA. 

How it works

The conversations are carefully structured and documented, making sure they take place at the right time and in the right place for each patient.

The doctors involved receive full training and ongoing support in having these kinds of conversations with their patients.

Conversations can take place at any time following diagnosis with a serious illness.

The patient and their doctor can then agree an approach to care that meets the person’s needs and wishes, enabling them to live their life the way they want and achieve their goals and priorities as far as possible.

Where it’s happening

The UK programme is a collaboration between Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Palliative Care Institute Liverpool and Ariadne Labs in Boston, USA.

The NHS England pilot allowed training of Doctors at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, Airedale in Yorkshire and Southend in Essex and included on-going educational support as they started using the conversations for suitable patients. 

Why it matters

Evidence from the USA shows that when patients have these kinds of conversations with their doctors, they feel more in control of their illness, are less likely to experience depression or anxiety, and report a better experience of care generally.

Doctors also say they feel more confident and better equipped for these conversations and that it enables them to deliver more personalised care.

The US research found 86% of patients felt they benefited from the meaningful conversations they had with clinicians and more than 90% of doctors involved have changed their behaviour to adopt these kinds of conversations as part of their everyday clinical practice.

Developing a UK evidence base

Feedback from patients and doctors at the UK sites will be carefully evaluated to see whether the Serious Illness Care Programme UK has similar benefits here and to see how we can further improve and refine it.

It is hoped that the Serious Illness Care Programme UK will improve healthcare for people diagnosed with serious illnesses and mean patients feel happier, more in control and better able to achieve their goals and priorities during their illness.  If successful, then in time we hope the approach will be adopted as standard practice across the NHS.

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