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Research reflections: research active hospices

Author: Sarah Russell, Head of Research and Clinical Innovation, and Melanie Hodson, Information Specialist, Hospice UK
18 March 2016

Sarah Russell and Melanie Hodson from Hospice UK ask if hospices can afford not to be involved in research.

There are more than 220 hospices in the UK and they have much to offer in compassionate care, education, symptom control and research.

In 2013, as part of the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care, Professor Sheila Payne and colleagues identified some of the challenges, possible solutions and anticipated benefits to patients and hospices of hospices being research active (1).

The report followed on from other work which commented on issues such as research capacity, overcoming NHS research ethics and governance challenges, facilitating supportive networks and defining what research activity hospices should actually be involved in (2).

Many hospices have taken forward the research agenda and there are great examples of research activity and reports from independent hospices, Marie Curie and Sue Ryder. We have also seen relationships develop between universities, academic centers, NHS providers and individual hospices, local and regional networks set up and, in 2010, the Cicely Saunders Institute became the first purpose built palliative care research institute.

At last week’s Palliative Care Congress in Glasgow, there were a plethora of poster and oral presentations showing the contribution to care and knowledge from hospice providers. Professor Bill Noble and the team from Marie Curie talked powerfully about their experiences of hospice research activity. The Association of Palliative Medicine shared their expertise. The Palliative Care Research Society held its annual general meeting. Professors Scott Murray, David Clark and Bridget Johnston discussed their vision for how the Scottish Palliative Care Research Forum would contribute to the Scottish Government Strategic Framework for Action on Palliative and End of Life Care. Independent hospices presented their research in posters and oral presentations.

But there are still challenges to be overcome and clarity about what hospice research activity means to hospices, universities, academic centers and NHS governance. How do we define and operationalize further the everyday world of hospice research activity?

Hospice UK are holding two stakeholder meetings and we would like your thoughts and experiences about the future of hospice research activity. If you would like to be part of these meetings either in person or in another way, we would like to hear from you.

To book your place or share your thoughts please contact Sarah ( and Melanie (


  1. Payne S, Preston N, Turner M, Rolls L. Research in palliative care: can hospices afford not to be involved? A report for the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care. Help the Hospices; 2013. Available from:
  2. Bennett MI, Davies EA, Higginson IJ. Review: Delivering research in end-of-life care: problems, pitfalls and future priorities. Palliative Medicine. 2010;24(5):456–461.
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