Hull York Medical School Professor to lead world-leading research centre at University of Hull

28 September 2017
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Miriam Johnson, Professor of Palliative Medicine at Hull York Medical School with colleagues

Miriam Johnson, Professor of Palliative Medicine at Hull York Medical School, is to head up a world leading research centre dedicated to improving the quality of people’s lives and reducing inequality in palliative care.

The Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre, which officially opened at the University of Hull yesterday, has been made possible with a £500,000 grant from the Wolfson Foundation.

The Centre will consolidate high-calibre research undertaken at Hull York Medical School and the University of Hull to create a world-leading centre for research into palliative care which will help people with life-limiting illnesses to access the best possible care.

Professor Miriam Johnson, Professor of Palliative Medicine at Hull York Medical School and Director of the Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre, said:

We are determined to make a difference to those patients and their families who are dealing with life-limiting-conditions. We want to ensure that all people have access to the help they need when they are faced with serious illness.

‘We want to deliver the kind of research that brings significant improvements to a patient’s quality of life – to help them take control of their symptoms, reducing their anxiety and allowing them to live their life as well as they can under the limitations of their illness.’

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said:

Improving end of life care is one of the most important challenges facing healthcare. We are impressed by the excellence of the research at Hull York Medical School and the University of Hull and anticipate that it will have a lasting impact, both on the region and beyond.

Professor Julie Jomeen, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Hull, said:

‘The Centre will build on the University’s track record in palliative care and its commitment to healthcare in the region evidenced in its innovations in healthcare practice and highly-skilled graduates. With high-calibre research and a focus on improving quality of life and reducing inequalities in palliative care for patients, the Centre will address the challenges facing palliative care provision and strengthen the University’s contribution to health – both here in Hull and internationally.’

The launch comes on the day when researchers at Hull York Medical School and health professionals also came together at a conference at the University to address key issues affecting healthcare provision in Hull and the UK around cancer screening and diagnosis, supportive and palliative care.

The Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre is part of the University’s new £28-million health campus –  an investment that underlines the University’s commitment to improving the lives of people in the region by educating the region’s practitioners and driving improvements to healthcare in the region and beyond.

The Centre brings together a team of high-profile world-class researchers who are building an international reputation for their focus on improving the quality of life for people with life limiting illness and reducing the current inequalities in access to palliative care.

Work to improve diagnosis and care for the terminally-ill is already underway at the University and in Hull York Medical School. Marie Curie has funded crucial research to improve the care of those with chronic lung conditions while Yorkshire Cancer Research is working in partnership with the University to deliver a programme of research to tackle cancer inequalities.

A commitment to drive other improvements to healthcare provision is demonstrated by the development of a checklist for doctors and nurses to use when a patient has a terminal illness will not only assist with identifying the physical and psychological problems, it will help develop an action plan to address the patient’s other concerns such as legal issues and money worries.

‘We need to give people the support and courage to face the things that frighten them and help them deal with them,’ said Professor Johnson.

In addition, Professor Johnson heads a project that looks at how to help patients who suffer from chronic breathless and has led an international team to agree on a new clinical syndrome to improve diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

Research into the management of cancer patients suffering from dangerous blood clots in hospices is also being undertaken.

Professor Johnson, who still practices once a week at Scarborough’s hospice, Saint Catherine’s, is passionate about her work:

‘For me the work we are focusing on is addressing the forgotten things, but they are often the things that can really matter to people, patients and their families.’

By making small breakthroughs, it is possible to improve quality of life for patients. For example, scanning the brain of people with breathlessness and identifying the reduction in symptoms when cold air was blown across the patient’s face, has resulted in recommendations to help people better deal with the condition.