Caroline Belchamber: To what extent does Palliative Cancer Care Physiotherapy service provision meet the National Standards of Supportive and Palliative Care?

Researcher: Caroline Belchamber

Caroline Belchamber is a part-time physiotherapy lecturer, Doctor of Professional    Practice (DProf) student and private practitioner. She currently has a contract with a local hospice developing a breathlessness clinic for people with chronic lung conditions, as well as holding an honorary contract for another local hospice, where her research is being carried out. Through Caroline’s experience of working in palliative care since 2000, she has seen the need for further research to assess people with cancer; health care professional’s understanding of the benefits of physiotherapy and whether healthcare as a profession is meeting National Standards of supportive and palliative care best practice recommendations.

Living With and beyond cancer is a major feature of the Cancer Reform Strategy and the survivorship and palliative care agendas are a priority in delivering quality care to people with cancer. Therapies which support palliative care, in particular, helping to maintain a good quality of life for people with cancer, are becoming increasingly important and are viewed as an integral part of the treatment pathway. It has been acknowledged that physiotherapy has core skills that can support the person living with cancer by enabling people to adapt to their changing condition through realistic goal-setting and patient-centred care.

In addition the rehabilitative care physiotherapy can provide aims to maximise independence by reducing the extent to which symptoms can interfere with the person’s physical, psycho-social and spiritual functioning. This includes provision of coping skills and strategies, which assist in the management of the changing physical status of disease progression, playing an important role in the management of breathlessness, anxiety and pain management, as well as other more complex conditions.

There are therefore numerous benefits to both the person with cancer and their carer, as well as cost benefits to the Trusts in preventing unnecessary hospital admissions through physiotherapy interventions.  Caroline’s research will help to understand the complex nature of these issues, without which it will be difficult to assess and quantify any gaps that there might be in the palliative cancer care physiotherapy service that is currently provided.

This single case study research design uses qualitative methods to explore a palliative cancer care physiotherapy service provision within a specialist palliative care unit. The practice development element of the DProf, involved the development of the private practice. Future applications of the research will develop from the research findings around best practice in physiotherapy cancer care service provision.

Related Links:

This research has been funded by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) Charitable Trust and the Association of Physiotherapists in Oncology and Palliative Care (ACPOPC).

It was also given the support of the Dorset Cancer Network Service Improvement Facilitator and is an extension of Caroline’s MSc research on rehabilitation in the context of palliative care of which fourarticles have been published and one book (, two poster presentations and one peer-reviewed Blog  including dissemination of the research at the CSP congress.

Links to documents mentioned in the project description:

Survivorship and palliative care agendas: