Dr Stephen Mason, Research and Development Lead, Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute Liverpool, UK
Those that have been involved in the design and execution of any form of research will recognise the challenges that can beset even the simplest of studies. And with London 2012 Olympics on in the background as I write (… not another Team GB Gold at the Velodrome!), it is interesting to note that the drive, coordination and attention to detail required to deliver team success on the track are not dissimilar to the elements required by collaborative research groups in addressing pressing clinical questions.
The OPCARE9 project
A little over a year ago, the three-year EU FP7 funded OPCARE9 project closed with an international conference in Liverpool. Engaging participants from nine countries, the project brought together clinicians and researchers from many disciplines to examine and report upon current practice and the supporting evidence base on the care of cancer patients in the last days of life. The results of the OPCARE9 project continue to be reported in a series of articles within the academic literature, including the European Journal of Palliative Care (EJPC). However, although officially closed, the work of the OPCARE9 group is really only just beginning and we are delighted that an article featuring our work is published in the current issue of the EJPC.
In brief, the OPCARE9 project identified that although developing, the current evidence base lacks critical depth and high quality collaborative research is still required. In pursuit of this, and to build on the collaborative relationships developed during OPCARE9, a new group was established to facilitate the development of research protocols generated within the project; the International OPCARE Research Collaborative (IORC).
To date, nine collaborative projects have successfully secured funding and the IORC are currently engaged in the development of further extended collaborative research. For example, a pilot study, based on current services in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, has been engaged in Liverpool to train and enable volunteers to support dying patients in an acute hospital setting. If the model is successful, the underpinning methodology could potentially be replicated across Europe.
Importantly, as well as critically examining the evidence base for practice, the functioning of the OPCARE9 collaborative was itself investigated. An independent evaluation identified key elements that facilitated the success of this complex collaborative venture. For example, it was noted that a dynamic leadership structure was required, with greater directional input needed at the onset of the project, receding naturally as the work packages developed their operating identities and characteristics. This, one of the many organisational lessons learned during OPCARE9, has been a key feature in the working development of the IORC. We hope that the operating structure of the IORC will enable it to provide a useful resource for both new and existing international partners seeking to engage in future collaborative research.
Find out more…
The article to which this post relates is ‘OPCARE9 – future directions for optimising the care of cancer patients in the last days of life’ by Stephen Mason and John Ellershaw, and is published in the July/August issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care (volume 19, number 4). If you already have a web-based subscription to the EJPC you will be able to download and print this issue plus all articles in the EJPC archive.
Members of the EAPC receive discounted subscription rates to the EJPC – click here to find out more and subscribe online.