Background We were approached by the charitable hospital, Cancer Centre Welfare Home and Research Institute of Thakurpukur, Kolkata, to assist planning and delivery of a teaching programme introducing palliative care to their area. Until a few months earlier there had been no palliative care provision in Kolkata, but with a newly established domiciliary team and plans for a palliative care ward within the cancer hospital, staff needed to raise awareness among other healthcare professionals (HCP). A key barrier they identified was the commonly held belief that treatments/medical interventions must continue to the end of life, even if no longer benefiting the patient.
Aims to devise and deliver a 3 day programme on palliative care, particularly focusing on attitudes towards medical interventions at the end of life.
Method Small group workshops were the preferred method of teaching – encouraging discussion among participants. Help the Hospices Toolkit was used as the course handbook, workshops modified to suit a 3 day programme. A team from the UK (palliative care consultant, nurse educator, oncologist and oncology nurse) were joined by experienced palliative care practitioners from elsewhere in India. 150 HCP attended – doctors, nurses, social workers and physiotherapists.
Results Participants were asked to complete a pre and post course questionnaire designed to detect a change in attitude: 53% of participants before the course felt that medical interventions should continue even when the patient was not responding and was close to death, compared with 31% after the course. Participants also completed a knowledge test and evaluation – which revealed immense enjoyment and satisfaction with the programme.
Conclusion The project has confirmed it is possible to change attitudes with a 3 day programme. Following its success and popularity, a repeat event is planned for 2012, alongside growth of local palliative care teams in the area.