Professor Nancy Preston, co-director of Lancaster University’s International Observatory on End of Life Care has been involved in the the first in depth- research into palliative care in the light of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The researchers, including two Lancaster Phd students, detail the challenges of providing palliative care where resources are stretched and demand is high, based on their experiences at a hospital in Switzerland close to the Italian border where there are high rates of the illness.
Prof Preston said: " Many patients are too unwell to benefit from ventilation but still need their symptoms managing."
In a paper published in The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, the researchers say palliative care needs to adapt to an emergency style in order to help make the best decisions and support families.
Prof Preston said: "These people require a conservative approach to their treatment, one which provides maximum support for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs – this is where a recognition that palliative care is required is crucial."
The researchers based their recommendations on caring for severely ill patients with Covid-19 in the Swiss hospital where treatment plans have changed dramatically.
The academic said: " Patients can deteriorate quickly and need a rapid response from their health care team" and she added: " It is crucial that patients with a high symptom burden are assessed and treated quickly – the recommendations in this paper based on front line experience can make a difference. This approach is therefore being used across the hospital, and in emergency departments too."
The paper: “Conservative management of Covid-19 patients – emergency palliative care in action” is by Nancy Preston and Lancaster PhD students Tanja Fusi-Schmidhauser and Claudia Gamondi along with with Nikola Keller from the Palliative and Supportive Care Clinic, Institute of Oncology of Southern Switzerland and Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale, Switzerland.