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''Necessity is the mother of invention'': Specialist palliative care service innovation and practice change in response to COVID-19. Results from a multi-national survey (CovPall)

By Lesley Dunleavy, Nancy J Preston, Sabrina Bajwah, Andy Bradshaw, Rachel L Cripps, Lorna K Fraser, Matthew Maddocks, Mevhibe Hocaoglu, Fliss EM Murtagh, Adejoke Oluyase, Katherine E Sleeman, Irene J Higginson, Catherine Walshe, on behalf of the CovPall study team

Posted 03 Nov 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.29.20215996

BackgroundSpecialist palliative care services have a key role in a whole system response to COVID-19. There is a need to understand service response to share good practice and prepare for future care. AimTo map and understand specialist palliative care services innovations and practice changes in response to COVID-19 (CovPall). DesignOnline survey of specialist palliative care providers, disseminated via key stakeholders. Data collected on service characteristics, innovations and changes in response to COVID-19. Statistical analysis included frequencies, proportions and means, and free-text comments were analysed using a qualitative framework approach. Setting/participantsInpatient palliative care units, home nursing services, hospital and home palliative care teams from any country. Results458 respondents: 277 UK, 85 Europe (except UK), 95 World (except UK and Europe), 1 missing country. 54.8% provided care across 2+ settings; 47.4% hospital palliative care teams, 57% in-patient palliative care units, and 57% home palliative care teams. The crisis context meant services implemented rapid changes. Changes involved streamlining, extending and increasing outreach of services, using technology to facilitate communication, and implementing staff wellbeing innovations. Barriers included; fear and anxiety, duplication of effort, information overload, funding, and IT infrastructure issues. Enablers included; collaborative teamwork, pooling of staffing resources, staff flexibility, a pre-existing IT infrastructure and strong leadership. ConclusionsSpecialist palliative care services have been flexible, highly adaptive and have adopted a frugal innovation model in response to COVID-19. In addition to financial support, greater collaboration is essential to minimise duplication of effort and optimise resource use. ISRCTN16561225https://doi.org/10.1186/ISRCTN16561225 Key StatementsO_ST_ABSWhat is already known about the topic?C_ST_ABSO_LISpecialist palliative care is part of a whole healthcare system response to COVID-19. C_LIO_LIServices need to make practice changes in response to the global pandemic. C_LI What this paper addsO_LISpecialist palliative care services responded rapidly to COVID-19 in both planning for change and then adapting to needs and requirements. C_LIO_LIServices often relied on improvisation, quick fixes and making do when responding to the COVID-19 crisis. C_LI Implications for practice, theory or policyO_LIIn addition to financial support, greater collaboration is essential to build organisational resilience and drive forward innovation, by minimising duplication of effort and optimising resource use. C_LIO_LIThe effectiveness and sustainability of any changes made during the crisis needs further evaluation. C_LI

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