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EARLY project to improve end of life care for Oxfordshire patients

24/11/2021
The EARLY project team

A joint project between healthcare partners and charities in Oxfordshire is set to improve care for people at the end of their life, as well as supporting primary care health professionals to identify and support these patients.

The EARLY project, named after the software that helps identify people who may require end of life support, is funded by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG), with direct input and collaboration from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH).

The EARLY project aims to:

  • support practice nurses and Allied Health Professionals (AHP) working in GP surgeries to improve their skills in discussing patient wishes around end-of-life care
  • support patients who need end of life care to develop their Advance Care Plans (ACPs) so they can fully explore their options, and make informed choices about their care and treatment.

The EARLY project is underway at Sobell House and Katharine House Hospice, which both provide end-of-life care in Oxfordshire and have provided direct input into the development of the project.

The project team, together with the Oxford Centre for Education and Research in Palliative Care, will run training days for healthcare staff from now until Summer 2022.

The EARLY project is run at OUH by Robyn Wozny, Jessica Taylor, and Rita Correia.

Robyn Wozny, Project Lead for EARLY, said: "Advance care planning allows patients to have more control over their end-of-life care. It allows them to get their affairs in order and consider what care and treatment they would like to receive, including a preferred place of care – this is often really important for our patients. It can provide some peace of mind for the patient and their family and friends and planning what the patient wants can make a huge difference to the end of life care."

From a healthcare perspective, advance care planning helps health teams understand what services are needed and used by their patients towards the end of their life.

Jessica Taylor, Project Lead for EARLY, said: "When patients and families have had the opportunity for their wishes to be discussed, documented, and shared across health services, sudden changes and deteriorations in their health are more likely to be managed smoothly, and importantly in line with their wishes.

"Advance care planning can also decrease the strain of urgent and unplanned encounters with health services."

Mary Walding, Lead Specialist Nurse for Palliative care at OUH, said: "Getting end-of-life care right is extremely important. One of the key aims of the EARLY project is to get patients talking about what they want from their care – significant choices such as where they want to receive their care can make all the difference. Some people may want hospice care, others may prefer to be at home with their familiar comforts as they come to the end of their life. By having these conversations, we can help make this happen and plan ahead."

Dr Ed Capo-Bianco, Locality Clinical Director of Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "I'm very excited to be involved in this project.

"The EARLY project has two strands – one, offering training in end-of-life conversations and advanced care planning to wider members of the General Practice healthcare team, thereby ensuring the best person is talking with the patient – sometimes this may not be their GP, and so empowers primary care colleagues to have these conversations.

"Secondly, by identifying patients on GP registers who might be in their last year of life, we are able to put advanced care planning in place. Both of these aspects of the project should enable improved end of life care and planning for our patients."