Impact of Volunteer Befrienders on Quality of Life, Loneliness and Social Support: A Wait List Randomised Trial (ELSA)

New series starts today: Posters from the 15th World Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care 

Poster presentations are an essential cornerstone of every EAPC Congress – this year in Madrid more than 900 posters were on display representing the scientific rigour and commitment of people involved in palliative care from across the world. If you were not able to attend the congress in Madrid, now’s the chance to see some of the posters close up and to enter into discussion with the contributors . . .

Professor Catherine Walshe from the International Observatory on End of Life Care at Lancaster University presents information about her poster presented with colleagues, Dr Nancy Preston, Prof Sheila Payne, Dr Guillermo Perez Algorta, Dr Steven Dodd, Nick Ockenden and Dr Matt Hill.

Prof Catherine Walshe

The research presented in our winning poster at the 15th EAPC World Congress in Madrid reported the results of one of the first trials examining the impact of volunteer ‘befrienders’ visiting schemes to people at the end of life. Volunteers are frequently integral to the way that palliative care is provided. Research has tended to focus on volunteer management and their perceptions of their role. There is less research investigating volunteers’ contribution to care, and in particular examining the difference that they make to people towards the end of their lives.

The team were delighted to win an award for this poster, but it feels particularly special for two reasons. First, because there was a focus on volunteers throughout the Madrid conference with the launch of the ‘Voice of Volunteering’ charter (Have you signed yet? You can read about it and sign here). Second, because it was the result of an effective research partnership with many palliative and end of life care services across England. We involved mostly research naïve staff who organised the volunteer-provided services, enabling them to develop real research skills and awareness working alongside us to run the trial.

As a trial, we wanted to see if we could find a significant difference to people on our outcomes of quality of life, loneliness or social support. The only area where we found this was in the physical quality of life, where the more time someone spent with their volunteer, the more difference this made. The difference was in making people’s decline in quality of life less rapid. Some people may be more likely to benefit from a volunteer befriending service than others, such as men and people with cancer. You can read more about the findings from the study in our open access paper here.

Some thoughts on designing posters . . .

The things we paid attention to when designing our poster were how to effectively convey a message visually, and the amount of information people may want about the project. Posters are a visual medium, and we tried to make the poster eye-catching with a layout that enhanced our core messages. We know that people have a lot of posters to read at a large conference such as the EAPC congress, so we focused on key issues with links to more information for people who are interested in the research. We also always include contact details and a picture of the presenting author so that people can find you if they want to speak about the project. Finally, we gave ourselves plenty of time for feedback on our poster design from colleagues.

As a team from the International Observatory on End of Life Care we also were awarded rosettes for top posters in a number of categories, showing the strength of our work, but also how time spent reviewing abstracts, posters and presentations is time well spent.


10th EAPC World Research Congress, Bern, Switzerland – 24 to 26 May 2018. Submit your abstract now (closing date 15 October 2017.

This entry was posted in 15th World Congress Madrid, VOLUNTEERING IN PALLIATIVE CARE and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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