New Agreement Creates First Formal University Teaching Hospice In UK


St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds is to become the first formally recognised university teaching hospice in the UK, helping it to provide the best possible palliative care by using the latest research to inform staff and student training.

The hospice, the largest in Yorkshire, will mark its new status at a launch event this September, following the pioneering agreement with the University of Leeds.

It has been supported by NHS Health Education England and reflects the long-standing relationship between St Gemma’s and the University of Leeds, providing a stronger platform for teaching and research in the future.    

The new permanent extended relationship provides increased capacity for Leeds students to study palliative care in practice at St Gemma’s as part of their degrees.

Raising the profile of palliative care research nationally and internationally, and ensuring the sector has a continued flow of expert medical and managerial personnel is a key feature of the new relationship.

Research in practice

Catherine Malia, Nurse Consultant at St Gemma’s Hospice said: “Research undertaken by the St Gemma’s academic unit of palliative care demonstrated that provision of information to patients about pain and effective use of painkillers leads to reduction in patients’ pain levels.

“As a result, we have developed patient information resources which educate patients about their pain, how to take pain killers safely and effectively and dispel some of the common fears associated with strong pain killers. We routinely provide these materials to patients when we are advising them to use pain killing drugs.’

Ongoing studies

The hospice and the university joined forces in 2011 to appoint Professor Mike Bennett as the St Gemma’s professor of palliative medicine. Professor Bennett leads the Academic Unit of Palliative Care based at the University’s Leeds Institute of Health Sciences and at St Gemma’s Hospice.

The hospice has provided university teaching and training in the form of a postgraduate healthcare course for more than 20 years and works with around 200 medical students per year to develop their skills in this area.

Professor Bennett said: “The work we have carried out together has ensured St Gemma’s staff and volunteers have had the most up-to-date education in standards of care, based on evidence from ongoing research programmes.

“Formalising this partnership between two of the city’s most respected organisations means patients for years to come will continue to be well supported. It also provides an opportunity to raise the profile of teaching and research in palliative care nationally.

“Ultimately it means the people we look after will be treated in the best way possible and, as patients’ needs change over time, we will always be in a position to adapt because of the new research which will be carried out.”

Outstanding care

In its most recent assessment, the Care Quality Commission specifically highlighted the hospice’s academic unit, led by Professor Bennett, as a factor in improving patient care which contributed to the overall ‘outstanding’ rating.

Kerry Jackson, Chief Executive of St Gemma’s said: “Patients and families already receive outstanding care, as judged by the Care Quality Commission. The new relationship we have created with the University of Leeds, means we can take that further, and embed research-based training and teaching into all our operations.”

As a result of the partnership, further undergraduate and master’s level teaching will be carried out, and significant palliative care research projects led by Professor Bennett will be planned. These will expand on previous research work.

Both organisations see the arrangement as a trajectory for ever-further improvement, to support the sector and the patients at St Gemma’s, by embedding best practice.

Working with the team and patients will also give more people within the university medical research community unique insight into how a leading hospice operates, helping improve the organisation of research projects.

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