BACKGROUND: The South West Peninsula (Cornwall, Devon, Somerset) has the highest proportion of over 65s (24.2%) and is the only English rural population with greater economic deprivation than in urban areas. Coastal populations have the worst health outcomes in England. Despite innovation among communities to support those with health and care needs in later life, recruitment to palliative care research in the region is low and there has been no evaluation of public health palliative care interventions.

OBJECTIVES: A new South West Peninsula Palliative Care Research Partnership was funded for 15 months, bringing together four universities, the voluntary and community sector (including hospices) and local National Institute for Health and Care Research networks. The aim was to establish a sustainable multisectoral partnership that would identify community-based support needs for underserved rural and coastal populations by: • conducting a literature scoping review on interventions to enable community members to support the dying; • delivering a research capacity-building programme; • co-creating public and patient involvement capacity; • determining the resources and needs for communities to support dying well; • integrating findings to develop a framework of community-based support and identify future research questions; • establishing a sustainable research network infrastructure for the long-term design and delivery of palliative care research.

DESIGN: We convened partners to identify research needs and co-designed activities to meet our objectives. These included a scoping review; a capacity-building programme of training, seminars and a journal club; forming a patient and public involvement group; a multistranded community engagement programme using different creative approaches; four focus groups with members of the public and one with community workers; and producing three 'storytelling' audio recordings. Findings were presented to the partnership at a regional workshop.

RESULTS: The scoping review showed that community-engaged palliative care interventions can improve outcomes for individuals but provided little evidence about which approaches work for different communities. Five online seminars and a quarterly journal club to develop research capacity were regularly attended by 15 to 25 participants from across the partnership. While evaluating our engagement methods was beyond the partnership's scope, levels of participation suggested that creative methods of engagement show potential to help researchers and practitioners better understand the needs and priorities of underserved populations. Data showed that rural, coastal and low-income communities face challenges in accessing end-of-life care and support due to issues such as transport to and distance from services, erosion of neighbourhood networks, isolation from family and friends, 'patchiness' of palliative care services and a lack of care providers. Community organisations are well-placed to co-produce and facilitate methodologies for involving communities in palliative care research.

LIMITATIONS: Although activities took place in diverse areas, it was not possible within the available resources to cover the entire large geographical region, particularly the most isolated rural areas.

CONCLUSIONS: Partnerships bringing together voluntary and community sector organisations, palliative care providers, health and social care providers, individuals with experience and academics have potential to design future research and public health interventions that better understand local context, involving and supporting communities to address their needs at end of life.

FUNDING: This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Public Health Research programme as award number NIHR135312.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-40
Number of pages40
JournalPublic Health Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Feb 2024


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