CovPall: A new study of the palliative care response to COVID-19

A recent post from the team at Cicely Saunders Institute (King’s College London) announced plans for a new research collaboration, CovPall. Today, Catherine Walshe and Nancy Preston from the International Observatory on End of Life Care tell us more about CovPall and the survey that will map and understand the response of specialist palliative care providers and hospices to COVID-19. 

Catherine Walshe (left) and Nancy Preston.

COVID-19 is likely to present a challenge to the way we deliver palliative care. The virus and the disease it causes is so new and we have little evidence – neither about how palliative care services have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, nor whether care has been effective. It is likely that expertise in palliative care can contribute to effective symptom management, to anticipatory care, to enhanced communication with patients and their families, helping people to die as well as possible, and care into bereavement and beyond. It is also highly likely that the response of palliative care services may be different to the ways that people usually work, responding to challenges in face-to-face contact, the need for remote consultations, potentially less contact with families, working in different settings, and with likely staffing constraints.

In response to these challenges, it is important that we move rapidly to understand the way that palliative care is provided, any difficulties, and effective solutions to both service-related and patient and family-related issues. Robust, ethically conducted research is required that can report rapidly to ensure that we are sharing innovative practices, assessing their effectiveness, and enabling the best possible care to be provided. In response to this, a team of researchers have developed the CovPall study, ‘Rapid evaluation of the COVID-19 pandemic response in palliative and end of life care: national delivery, workforce and symptom management (CovPall)’, to address some of these questions. The research is led by Professor Irene Higginson and is a collaboration between researchers at the Cicely Saunders Institute (King’s College London), International Observatory on End of Life Care (Lancaster University), Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre (Hull/York Medical School), and the Martin House Research Centre (York University).

The CovPall survey – open to all clinical leads across the globe

There are two parts to CovPall. The first is an international electronic survey of those providing palliative care in any setting (such as hospices, palliative care units, acute hospitals, community and home settings). This includes both adult and children’s services. The aim is to map and understand the response of specialist palliative care providers and hospices to COVID-19 including their workforce and volunteer deployment, service and technology innovations, clinical policies and practices, challenges and successes. This survey is open now (until 31 July 2020), and our research ethics approvals from King’s College London mean that it is open to all clinical leads to complete for their services, including those outside the UK. We are delighted at the response we have received so far, from across the globe. We can send you information about the survey if you email us at (with CovPall in the subject line) or you can look at our webpage for more details. We are delighted that the EAPC is supporting us in this work and you can find information on their website too.

CovPall study – an opportunity to compare and contrast approaches to care

The second part of CovPall will be a study of those with COVID-19 who are receiving palliative care. We will be asking for information on a small cohort of patients from a range of selected services. We plan to examine the characteristics of those receiving care, the care they receive, and how effective it is, for example at ameliorating symptoms. We are currently in the process of seeking NHS (National Health Service) approvals for this study. We are happy to speak with those who want to collect these research data in their own country, but recognise that you will need to apply for your own research ethics or governance approvals. We can share our materials to facilitate your own approvals. The data from this study should also harmonise with data we know is being collected in service evaluations, for example the RAPID series in Australia, so that it is easier to compare and contrast approaches to care.

The findings from these studies will help the Public Health Response to the COVID-19 pandemic, informing the optimal ways that palliative care services can respond, provide a better evidence-based guide to effective symptom management, and improve management across a wide variety of settings.

To find out more about the CovPall study visit our webpage here. Please share your views in the online survey.

More about the authors…

Professor Catherine Walshe and Professor Nancy Preston are Co-directors of the International Observatory on End of Life Care, Lancaster University, UK.
Follow them on Twitter:
Catherine Walshe @cewalshe  Nancy Preston @NancyPreston16

Some resources relating to Covid-19 and palliative care

Read more about Coronavirus and the Palliative Care Response on the EAPC blog. More posts to follow soon …


Submit your late-breaking abstract on Covid-19 and the Palliative Care Response for 11th EAPC World Research Congress Online 7-9 October 2020
We’ve reopened our abstract system specifically for abstracts relating to COVID-19 and the Palliative Care response. Find out more and submit your abstract here. Deadline: 31 July 2020.

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