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UEA researchers pioneering support for terminal patients

Researchers at the University of East Anglia and the University of Cambridge are pioneering new ways to support people living with a terminal illness – thanks to funding from the charity Marie Curie.

From managing symptoms and dealing with feelings and worries, to practical help at home – they have created a health care approach which uses a set of questions to help patients share their concerns with healthcare professionals.

Official projections for the UK show that, with a growing elderly population, the number of people living with complex terminal illnesses will increase significantly. This means that a greater number of people will require end of life care.

The Support Needs Approach for Patients (SNAP) approach asks patients to consider areas where they need more support. The questions sit inside a ‘How are you?’ booklet, which helps start a conversation with their healthcare professional about their support needs.

The SNAP approach was initially developed for people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD). But the pioneering initiative also has the potential to be used to help those living with other terminal illnesses. 

Lead researcher Dr Morag Farquhar, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “SNAP is making a significant difference for patients in identifying and sharing their support needs with healthcare professionals.

“We have had cases where a patient has not felt able to bring up their concerns about how their need for care and support might change as their condition gets worse, and the SNAP tool helped start a discussion about what might be important to think about and what they might like to happen if they couldn’t get better.

“And healthcare professionals have told us that SNAP has enabled them to better support patients, and sometimes to signpost or refer patients to services to meet their needs.”

Helen Chapman, Marie Curie Community Fundraiser for Norfolk, said: “When patients are in busy hospital wards it can be surprisingly hard for them express what is meaningful to them. SNAP empowers them to think and voice their emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual needs which are all important to people living with a terminal illness.

“This is a fantastic new approach to care. It highlights the ongoing work Marie Curie is doing in supporting research and development in palliative and end of life care. The charity is actually the largest charitable funder of palliative and end of life care research in the UK. The charity invests nearly £3 million, each year, in research to help inform better quality of care for people with any terminal illness, and the people who care for them.”

SNAP is now available for use by the NHS, hospices and other care settings. To find out more visit thesnap.org.uk/.

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