Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A study looking at a single question designed to help improve care for people with an illness that cannot be cured
This study looked at how well a question worked in helping hospital health professionals look after people who need palliative care. It was called the Patient Dignity Question.
Palliative care is care for patients whose illness cannot be cured. It includes control of pain and other symptoms, and help with psychological, social and spiritual problems.
More about this trial
Dignity in palliative care means helping the patient to:
- remain in control of their wishes
- have a sense of belonging
- be respected, valued and treated as an individual
Giving someone dignity is an important part of what makes palliative care work well.
To support health professionals in doing this, a question was developed to help them understand how best to look after someone who needs palliative care.
It asked the patient “What do I need to know about you as a person to take the best care of you that I can?”. This is the Patient Dignity Question.
Researchers in this study tested this question. Staff at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee put this question to patients who needed palliative care. They also talked to patients about what they thought of the question and how useful it was.
The aim of this study was to use this information to develop better services for people having palliative care in hospital.
Summary of results
The study team found the Patient Dignity Question improved how patients viewed their care in terms of empathy and whether they were at the centre of their care. For health professionals, it showed that it also improved the attitudes, care, respect, empathy and satisfaction in caring for the people.
This was a pilot study. 30 patients took part. They filled out 2 short questionnaires.
The 1st questionnaire asked about the hospital environment and its focus on the patient.
The 2nd questionnaire asked about their thoughts on the attitudes of the staff caring for them.
They were then ask “What do I need to know about you as a person to take the best care of you that I can?” (Patient Dignity Question). Their response was kept in their nursing notes.
Two days later they filled out the same 2 questionnaires again.
Answers from the 1st questionnaire showed more patients thought:
- the staff were easy to talk to
- they had something nice to look at
- that everyday things were talked about rather than just their illness
- they could get that ‘little bit extra’
- they could rely on getting the best care
- they were in safe hands
Things that patients thought weren’t as good included feeling that the staff:
- took notice of what they said
- made that little extra effort on their behalf
Answers form the 2nd questionnaire showed more patients thought better about how the staff:
- helped them to take control
- were interested in them as a whole person
- were being positive
- were including them in making a plan of action
One thing most patients felt was not as good was about staff explaining things clearly.
Results of feedback survey
The team asked patients what they thought about the Patient Dignity Question. Of the 30 patients:
- everyone said the Patient Dignity Question was accurate
- everyone said it could be put in their charts
- 10 patients wanted a copy
- 25 patients thought it was important information for the staff
- 19 patients thought it would affect the way staff cared for them
- 28 patients would recommend that others do it
They also asked 17 staff members to give feedback. The majority said that the Patient Dignity Question had a positive impact on the care they gave.
The study team concluded the Patient Dignity Questionnaire:
- could improve patients’ views on care
- could change the attitudes of health care staff
- is seen as a positive thing by patients and staff
- could be included into the care of those who need palliative care
They said that further research into using the Patient Dignity Question across a wider range of settings would be beneficial.
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Professor Bridget Johnston
Macmillan Cancer Support
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
University of Dundee