EU-funded project in key position to guide future integrated palliative care and rehabilitation services for cancer 

21st June 2024 

    • Population ageing and increasing rates of cancer-related disability are challenges to European health services.
    • The INSPIRE project is piloting a new model of rehabilitation for adults living with advanced cancer across Europe to improve function and quality of life.

INSPIRE (Integrated Short-term Palliative Rehabilitation) is a four-year project funded by Horizon Europe that seeks to address disability, declining mobility, and related palliative care needs for individuals with cancer. Recruitment to this EU-funded trial will begin shortly in six countries; Denmark, England, France, Norway, Italy, and Scotland. By testing a new model of palliative rehabilitation in a randomised controlled trial, a range of healthcare professionals will work with individuals with cancer to target their debilitating symptoms and to devise a unique rehabilitation plan to support their goals.  

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Professor Barry Laird and Clinical Fellow Amy McLuskie, and from King’s College London, Dr. Joanne Bayly, have been instrumental in preparing the trial manual and in delivering the training to rehabilitation practitioners. Practitioners will engage participants in evidence-based rehabilitation strategies, working towards goals that matter to them in everyday life. INSPIRE includes interventions to optimise self-management of symptoms, physical fitness and engagement in daily activities. Interventions support individuals to participate in their family and community networks, navigating the constraints of their condition.  

Discussing the novelty of INSPIRE, Scientific Project Manager Dr. Joanne Bayly of King’s College London said:  

“This is the first multi-national RCT to test a tailored and individualised multi-modal palliative rehabilitation intervention. If found to be effective, the INSPIRE intervention is designed to be scalable, to facilitate sustainable integration into palliative care services across a range of clinical settings and health care systems.” 

The project has come at an opportune time. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), individuals are living longer with cancer-related disability, which is increasing the demand for integrated palliative care and rehabilitation services. The WHO recently called for greater integration of palliative care and rehabilitation services to provide for this growing demand. All preparation for the INSPIRE trial is now complete; recruitment for this major trial will commence shortly in six European countries. As lead partners for the Intervention Readiness work package of the trial, researchers from the University of Edinburgh and King’s College London have been designing the intervention structure, materials, and resources to fill current gaps in palliative care and rehabilitation services for cancer. 

May 2024 heralded the start of trial recruitment: an exciting prospect for all professionals involved in designing the intervention. INSPIRE was created with and for people with incurable cancer, along with their main caregivers. It responds to each person’s concerns, priorities and goals and can be delivered by a range of different healthcare professionals. Goal setting is one of several behaviour change techniques that underpin the intervention and will enable participants and INSPIRE professionals to co-develop a rehabilitation plan that works for them. Directing rehabilitation through goal-setting pairs with guidelines from the WHO, who indicate that intervention effectiveness can be bolstered by centering the intervention on what matters to the participant; their needs, wants, and wishes. 

Discussing her work on the INSPIRE Intervention Readiness work package, Clinical Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, Amy McLuskie said: 

“Goals for everyday life should be person centered. I think we all do goal setting to a degree as health professionals but we don’t necessarily label them in this way. We wanted it built into INSPIRE that the individual’s goal is what directs the palliative rehabilitation sessions.” 

INSPIRE will generate key learnings on designing and implementing an integrated service based on WHO recommendations. As well as assessing how the intervention was delivered, trial results will be examined on both clinical and cost-effectiveness as a potential integration model for health services to tackle the growing need for palliative rehabilitation. The results of INSPIRE will be compelling for healthcare systems across Europe seeking better integration between healthcare professionals and departments delivering palliative and oncology care.  

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Are you interested in getting involved or learning more about INSPIRE? Contact Fódhla at