St Columba’s Hospice Care has partnered with Queen Margaret University to become a University Hospice.

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Project and outcomes


Project overview

The partnership between St Columba’s Hospice Care and Queen Margaret University (QMU) was launched in April 2022. The partnership aims to:

  • Identify and collaborate on mutually beneficial research and practice development projects, with a particular focus on person-centred palliative care.
  • Advance person-centred palliative care services and cultures through the development of innovative research, practice development, education and services.
  • Collaborate to ensure high quality continuing professional development to advance practice in person-centred end of life care.
  • Advance the curricula in pre-registration and postgraduate programmes at QMU.


There is now a stronger link between education, research and practice across both organisations. The university provides academic skills to support research and evaluation, and the hospice provides practice-led expertise and opportunities for embedding research into practice. Working together, the hospice and the university have been able to undertake numerous projects and apply for joint funding. Each organisation draws on their respective stakeholders and potential sources of funding.

The partnership has already carried out some research projects with an emphasis on person-centred care. These include:

  • A pilot study looking at the use of virtual reality (VR), which has had a significant impact in demonstrating what VR can bring to hospice care.
  • Reaching for the Rainbow, a project examining the person-centred culture in the hospice for staff and colleagues as well as patients and families.
  • An evaluation of the Hospice at Home service, exploring how to a person-centred approach could be enhanced further.

The partnership has been able to increase the number of student placements at the hospice. As well as nursing student placements, these have been extended into wider disciplines such as music therapy and art therapy. There is scope for the hospice to host students from other fields and disciplines too, such as hospitality students.

Working with a broader range of students has had a positive impact on innovation. In 2021 the partnership won a Building Better Healthcare Award 2021, for a music therapy project that was developed in collaboration with a QMU student.

The partnership’s focus on person-centred practice has had a wider impact on the way the hospice and university work with staff and colleagues. There has been an increased recognition that person-centred practice also focuses on wellbeing of staff and colleagues This has led to a new approach to appraisals and performance management, which was informed by QMU and transferred into the hospice.

Facilitators, challenges and advice


Key facilitators

The hospice and university are committed to shared values, including:

  • learning, creativity and innovation
  • generating new knowledge
  • looking beyond outputs
  • relationships and processes
  • high quality person-centred palliative care
  • co-production
  • equality, diversity and inclusion.

These values underpin joint education, research and practice development projects.

The hospice has now a well-established infrastructure for research with a joint research portfolio between the hospice and the university.

There is a formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) which is operational for an initial 5 years and includes provision for review after 2 years. Both parties have committed to fund joint posts which have a key role in the partnership. 

An Education and Research Committee has been formed to oversee the partnership, which includes representatives from both organisations. 


Working innovatively can be difficult as it requires the creation of a safe space and the mutual willingness to challenge convention.

The Reaching for the Rainbow project, for example, looked at the person-centred culture in the hospice. It highlighted the importance of promoting person-centred practice among staff and colleagues, exploring people’s diverse experiences. This enabled some brave and challenging conversations fostering improvements in the working culture within the hospice which were led by the teams themselves.

Tips and advice


Partnership is more than just a document, it’s about shared values and creating learning organisations.

We can’t innovate if we only want to try what we have already done. We need to be brave enough to take risks and ask challenging questions.

Future development


The partnership aims to further establish St Columba’s Hospice Care as a centre of excellence for palliative care, and QMU as a learning organisation fostering practice-led innovation and promoting person-centred palliative care research and education.