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Social Work PhD success - and a play

The 'Fighting For Life' play has been inspired by the experience that Dr Helen Findlay and her family went through in trying to get appropriate care and support for her mother who had dementia and her father who had Motor Neurone Disease as they moved towards the end of their lives.

PENNA photo with H&BThe experience provided a big catalyst in prompting the topic for Helen's PhD research at Brunel University on service user involvement in palliative care. She attended the graduation ceremony at Central Hall on 12 December 2019 to receive her doctorate.

Helen met a professional playwright called Brian Daniels at an All Party Parliamentary Group on Hospice and Palliative Care meeting in the Houses of Parliament and spoke with him about what had happened and about The Findlay Report, a family written case study that chronicles the experience. Brian Daniels decided he would like to write a play about it, Helen commissioned him to do so and then both of them collaborated on the script. The play is directed by Dr Bernie Byrnes, produced by Pluto Productions (a registered charity) and performed radio-style by four professional actors where they sit facing the audience and read from the script in character. It includes various facets of the lives of Helen's parents and other issues such as family relationships, challenges that older carers can face, attitudes of health and social care professionals towards older people, vulnerability and palliative care.

Derby Hosp  May 2018The premiere performance of the play was held at the Marie Curie Hampstead Hospice and the event was chaired by the actor, Greg Wise. There was a question and answer panel session after the performance that Helen took part in and around 100 people attended. There has been 14 more performances over the last two years at venues across the UK including Cardiff, Glasgow, West Midlands, East Midlands, Hampshire, Thames Valley and also at the hospital where Helen's father died. The next performance is in February 2020 in London to be hosted by NHS England and Helen will be a member of the Question and Answer panel.

'Fighting For Life' was a Finalist in the Patient Experience Network National Awards 2018.
Helen has produced a website that gives further information about the play plus reviews and photos and also details about how to commission a performance: fightingforlife.org.uk.

Reported by:

Dr Pam Alldred
+44 (0)1895 267270
Pam.Alldred@brunel.ac.uk