Dr Sarah Mills receives Howard Elder Prize for cancer research

Sarah Mills (3rd from left) with the Chronic Pain research team in the Population Health Sciences department.

The University of Dundee School of Life Sciences Howard Elder Prize prize is awarded to a postgraduate student or postdoctoral researcher deemed to have published the most significant paper in an area related to cancer research.

Sarah received the prize in recognition of her paper “Factors affecting use of unscheduled care for people with advanced cancer: a retrospective cohort study in Scotland”, published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP).

The study finds that the majority of unscheduled care given to people who die from cancer is GPOOH (GP Out-of Hours). Common causes for visits are pain and palliative care. Previous studies based on only A&E (accident and emergency) visits have led to an underestimation of the frequency of unscheduled care use.

PATCH provided initial funding for this research.

I am forever indebted to PATCH for supporting me at such a pivotal point in my career and hope that my future work is a credit to them and to the PATCH funders and community.

Dr Sarah Mills

In this ground-breaking piece work Dr Mills demonstrated that the unscheduled care attendance by people who die from cancer was significantly higher than had been previously described, was increased substantially as patients neared the end of life, was largely independent of demographic factors and cancer type and was common for pain and palliative care. The improved understanding of factors that influence the use of unscheduled care by people who die from cancer is important for targeting future interventions, policy and service delivery and improving the patient journey.

While all this year’s nominated researchers have produced excellent publications in cancer research, the award committee was particularly impressed by Dr Mills’ comprehensive approach, not only to document and evidence a specific and underappreciated clinical issue but also to identify the reasons for adverse outcomes linked to unscheduled patient care. Such understanding will help future planning of cancer patient care, particularly during the last few weeks of life, and perhaps also relieve some of the strain on GP Out-of-Hours service and A&E for unscheduled care.

Many congratulations to Sarah for her outstanding achievement.

Professor Rory McCrimmon

At PATCH, we extend our deepest gratitude to Sarah and her fellow researchers. Their thorough research grants us all a better understanding of the situation, and gives a solid foundation for their suggestions of anticipatory care planning, improved community support, and streamlined care pathways.