Introduction While loneliness has been in the spotlight during the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK, for many people impacted by terminal illnesses and coming towards the end of life, the experience began a long time before March 2020. There is a growing recognition among policymakers in Northern Ireland that we need to do a lot more on the loneliness front, with NI standing today as the only place in the UK without a dedicated loneliness strategy. However, the evidence base around the impact and solutions to loneliness among terminally ill people and their loved ones is severely underdeveloped.
Aims Through the lens of health and social care professionals in Northern Ireland (NI), this research aims to explore the perceived prevalence, impact, and possible solutions to loneliness among people who are terminally ill and their carers.
Method Explanatory sequential mixed methods comprising an online survey (n = 68; response rate 30%) and three online focus groups (n = 15) with Marie Curie health and social care professionals. Data analysis included descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. Patients and informal carers were involved in shaping the results.
Results We will report preliminary findings, with a focus on the value of the Marie Curie policy-themed small research grants for supporting research to influence policy.
Conclusion This study will provide an evidence base on the impact, and tools for alleviating, loneliness among people with terminal illnesses and their carers.
Impact This research evidence will be critical for influencing political change in NI and ensuring that, when and if a future loneliness strategy is developed, people impacted by terminal illness are given due regard and attention. The impact of loneliness on their lives every day is simply too great not to.
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