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1.  Assessing the feasibility, acceptability and potential effectiveness of Dignity Therapy for people with advanced cancer referred to a hospital-based palliative care team: Study protocol 
Background
Loss of dignity for people with advanced cancer is associated with high levels of psychological and spiritual distress and the loss of the will to live. Dignity Therapy is a brief psychotherapy, which has been developed to help promote dignity and reduce distress. It comprises a recorded interview, which is transcribed, edited then returned to the patient, who can bequeath it to people of their choosing. Piloting in Canada, Australia and the USA, has suggested that Dignity Therapy is beneficial to people with advanced cancer and their families. The aims of this study are to assess the feasibility, acceptability and potential effectiveness of Dignity Therapy to reduce psychological and spiritual distress in people with advanced cancer who have been referred to hospital-based palliative care teams in the UK, and to pilot the methods for a Phase III RCT.
Design
A randomised controlled open-label trial. Forty patients with advanced cancer are randomly allocated to one of two groups: (i) Intervention (Dignity Therapy offered in addition to any standard care), and (ii) Control group (standard care). Recipients of the 'generativity' documents are asked their views on taking part in the study and the therapy. Both quantitative and qualitative outcomes are assessed in face-to-face interviews at baseline and at approximately one and four weeks after the intervention (equivalent in the control group). The primary outcome is patients' sense of dignity (potential effectiveness) assessed by the Patient Dignity Inventory. Secondary outcomes for patients include distress, hopefulness and quality of life. In view of the relatively small sample size, quantitative analyses are mainly descriptive. The qualitative analysis uses the Framework method.
Discussion
Dignity Therapy is brief, can be delivered at the bedside and may help both patients and their families. This detailed exploratory research shows if it is feasible to offer Dignity Therapy to patients with advanced cancer, many of whom are likely to be in the terminal stage of their illness, whether it is acceptable to them and their families, if it is likely to be effective, and determine whether a Phase III RCT is desirable.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Clinical Trials: ISRCTN29868352
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-8-5
PMCID: PMC2689205  PMID: 19445711
2.  Randomised controlled trial of a new palliative care service: Compliance, recruitment and completeness of follow-up 
Background
Palliative care has been proposed for progressive non-cancer conditions but there have been few evaluations of service developments. We analysed recruitment, compliance and follow-up data of a fast track (or wait list control) randomised controlled trial of a new palliative care service – a design not previously used to assess palliative care.
Methods/Design
An innovative palliative care service (comprising a consultant in palliative medicine, a clinical nurse specialist, an administrator and a psychosocial worker) was delivered to people severely affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), and their carers, in southeast London. Our design followed the MRC Framework for the Evaluation of Complex Interventions. In phase II we conducted randomised controlled trial, of immediate referral to the service (fast-track) versus a 12-week wait (standard best practice). Main outcome measures were: compliance (the extent the trial protocol was adhered to), recruitment (target 50 patients), attrition and missing data rates; trial outcomes were Palliative Care Outcome Scale and MS Impact Scale.
Results
69 patients were referred, 52 entered the trial (26 randomised to each arm), 5 refused consent and 12 were excluded from the trial for other reasons, usually illness or urgent needs, achieving our target numbers. 25/26 fast track and 21/26 standard best practice patients completed the trial, resulting in 217/225 (96%) of possible interviews completed, 87% of which took place in the patient's home. Main reasons for failure to interview and/or attrition were death or illness. There were three deaths in the standard best practice group and one in the fast-track group during the trial. At baseline there were no differences between groups. Missing data for individual questionnaire items were small (median 0, mean 1–5 items out of 56+ items per interview), not associated with any patient or carer characteristics or with individual questionnaires, but were associated with interviewer.
Conclusion
This is the first time a fast track (or wait list) randomised trial has been reported in palliative care. We found it achieved good recruitment and is a feasible method to evaluate palliative care services when patients are expected to live longer than 3–6 months. Home interviews are needed for a trial of this kind; interviewers need careful recruitment, training and supervision; and there should be careful separation from the clinical service of the control patients to prevent accidental contamination.
Trial Registration
Clinical Trials.Gov NCT00364963
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-7-7
PMCID: PMC2442830  PMID: 18507817
3.  Study protocol: delayed intervention randomised controlled trial within the Medical Research Council (MRC) Framework to assess the effectiveness of a new palliative care service 
Background
Palliative care has been proposed to help meet the needs of patients who suffer progressive non-cancer conditions but there have been few evaluations of service development initiatives. We report here a novel protocol for the evaluation of a new palliative care service in this context.
Methods/Design
Using the MRC Framework for the Evaluation of Complex Interventions we modelled a new palliative care and neurology service for patients severely affected by Multiple Sclerosis (MS). We conducted qualitative interviews with patients, families and staff, plus a literature review to model and pilot the service. Then we designed a delayed intervention randomised controlled trial to test its effectiveness as part of phase II of the MRC framework. Inclusion criteria for the trial were patients identified by referring clinicians as having unresolved symptoms or psychological concerns. Referrers were advised to use a score of greater than 8 on the Expanded Disability Scale was a benchmark. Consenting patients newly referred to the new service were randomised to either receive the palliative care service immediately (fast-track) or after a 12-week wait (standard best practice). Face to face interviews were conducted at baseline (before intervention), and at 4–6, 10–12 (before intervention for the standard-practice group), 16–18 and 22–24 weeks with patients and their carers using standard questionnaires to assess symptoms, palliative care outcomes, function, service use and open comments. Ethics committee approval was granted separately for the qualitative phase and then for the trial.
Discussion
We publish the protocol trial here, to allow methods to be reviewed in advance of publication of the results. The MRC Framework for the Evaluation of Complex Interventions was helpful in both the design of the service, methods for evaluation in convincing staff and the ethics committee to accept the trial. The research will provide valuable information on the effects of palliative care among non-cancer patients and a method to evaluate palliative care in this context.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-5-7
PMCID: PMC1615868  PMID: 17014714

Results 1-3 (3)