People in England with serious illnesses are set to benefit from a pioneering new approach that should ensure care is tailored to their needs and, as far as possible, enables them to achieve their goals and priorities.a
August 5, 2016

The Serious Illness Care Programme UK involves structured, meaningful conversations between doctors and patients diagnosed with a serious illness. It helps identify their goals and priorities throughout their illness, so that doctor and patient can agree a treatment approach that meets their needs and wishes.

It is based on an approach pioneered in the USA by Ariadne Labs, a not-for-profit research institution in Boston, Massachusetts that seeks to identify solutions to big global health needs.

Consultant oncologists at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust in Merseyside, along with a number of GPs in Airedale, Yorkshire and Southend, Essex, will receive formal training in having serious illness conversations in September and October 2016. They will then begin having the conversations with suitable patients, carefully documenting the discussions and agreeing a treatment plan that meets the patient’s wishes.

The evidence from the USA, where the programme has been used for some time, has shown that 86 per cent of patients feel they benefit from these kinds of conversations, and 90 per cent of doctors involved have now adopted the conversations in their everyday clinical practice.

The UK programme will be carefully monitored and evaluated to see whether patients in England experience similar benefits to those in the USA.

Dr Peter Kirkbride, National Lead for the Serious Illness Care Programme UK and Medical Director at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is a totally new approach to caring for people with serious illnesses, and one that we hope patients will feel results in significant benefits by helping them feel more in control and better able to live life the way they want to throughout their illness. The conversations will enable doctors to agree care plans that meet patients’ wishes and achieve their goals and priorities in life.”

The UK programme is a partnership between The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust in Merseyside, Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute Liverpool and Ariadne Labs in Boston, USA.

NHS England is funding a one-year pilot that will see GPs in the areas covered by NHS Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven CCG and Southend CCG being trained and using the programme, as well as consultant oncologists from The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

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