International Clinical Trials Day: Bridging healthcare gaps in regional, rural and remote communities

On this International Clinical Trials Day, we recognise and acknowledge the wonderful work of our regional and rural clinical trials teams who support equitable access to clinical trials.  Clinical trials are crucial to advance medical knowledge and improve health outcomes and health service delivery.

“Clinical trials are a key method for bringing advances in clinical care to our communities, and it is great to see the number of clinical trials continue to grow across our region,” says Associate Professor Nicki Hodyl, Director of NSW Regional Health Partners. “People living in regional and rural areas face challenges accessing clinical trials. We are working with our partners to address this disparity through current initiatives, like the R3 Clinical Trials Enabling Program supported by both the NSW and federal governments.”

Today we take the opportunity to highlight an outstanding clinical trial developed and led by clinician-researchers in our region: a Palliative Care Clinical Trial to improve patients’ experience at end-of-life.

Motivated by the lack of access to home-based personal care at the end of life, Calvary Mater Newcastle nurse, Jessica Scaife, Dr Rachel Hughes, Professor John Attia and Dr Sarah Moberley, developed and initiated a clinical trial to compare current standard practice to a new program where palliative care is coordinated by a community nurse working with the patient, allowing care to be provided in the patient’s preferred location, usually their home. 

Conducted by palliative care staff at the Calvary Mater Newcastle, the trial randomised 500 patients over the period May 2021 to April 2022 to one of the two study arms – either to receive current standard care or to receive a new community-based nurse-led care model. The research team assessed which method resulted in patients spending more days in their preferred location at the end of life.

Senior Research Fellow, Lisa Mackenzie and the team at Calvary Mater Palliative Care supported the completion of recruitment and data collection for this trial late last year.  This research has been in partnership with Calvary Home Care, HMRI and Hunter New England.

“We hear from our palliative care patients that they would prefer to spend more time at home rather than hospital at the end of their life. This project focussed on providing early intervention, supporting patients living in the community with appropriate care so they don’t reach a crisis point where they would require emergency department visits. By having a nurse meet with the patients early and coordinate provision of care in their home, we hoped we could meet the patient’s needs early to maximise the time patients spend in their preferred care setting,” reports Lisa Mackenzie.

The results of the trial are currently being analysed, and we wait in eager anticipation to share the outcomes with you very soon.

The Calvary Mater Newcastle Palliative Care Specialist Service, situated at the Mercy Hospice, plays a pivotal role in providing adult palliative medicine consultation, specialist outpatient care and support to residential aged care facilities.

Funding for this clinical trial was provided by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) granted through NSW Regional Health Partners in 2019.