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Mrs Rachel France

Profile summary

  • Research Student
  • Research Student
  • Faculty of Wellbeing, Education & Language Studies
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  • rachel.france

Professional biography

I am a full-time PhD student (started October 2013). The working title of my project is Volunters in end-of-life care: how is their role constructed? This is planned to be an ethnographic exploration of the volunteer role in hospices.

Before starting my PhD I worked at the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Unit at UCL, initially on a project about volunteers in end-of-life care (see publications below) and later on the evaluation of a dementia training project at UCL Partner NHS Trusts (based in North and East London). Before that I took a couple of years out to try my hand at property developing (where I learnt how difficult project management is!), and before that I worked for seven years as a systematic reviewer for the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. Here I supported the development of mental health guidelines published by NICE (depression, self-harm, bipolar disorder, antenatal postnatal mental health, borderline personality disorder). In the long-lost past, I had a career as a computer programmer and systems analyst, largely in transport-related businesses - cars and aeroplanes.

Research interests

Psychosocial aspects of palliative care
Qualitative research methods
Systematic review methods for reviewing qualitative research, and for combining qualitative and quantitative literature.


Peer-reviewed publications (publications are in my maiden name Rachel Burbeck)

Candy B, France R, Low J, Bravery R, Sampson EL.Does involving volunteers in the provision of palliative care make a difference to patient and family wellbeing? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative evidence International Journal of Nursing Studies, available online first DOI: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2014.08.007.

Burbeck R, Candy B, Low J, Rees R.Understanding the role of the volunteer in specialist palliative care: a systematic review and thematic synthesis. BMC Palliative Care 2014 13:3.

Burbeck R, Low J, Sampson L, Bravery R, Hill M, Ockenden N, Morris S, Payne J, Candy B.  Volunteers in specialist palliative care: A survey of adult services in the UK. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 17: DOI: 10.1089/jpm.2013.0157 Published online January 2014.

Burbeck R, Willig C. The personal experience of dysmenorrhoea: an interpretative phenomenological analysis. Journal of Health Psychology. DOI: 10.1177/1359105313490313 published online 1 July 2013.  

Burbeck R, Low J, Sampson EL, Scott R, Bravery R, Candy B. Volunteer activity in specialist paediatric palliative care: a national survey. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care Published Online First: 2013;0:1–7. doi:10.1136/bmjspcare-2012-000355. 

Lam D, Burbeck R., Wright K., Pilling S (2009) Psychological therapies in bipolar disorder: the effect of illness history on relapse prevention – a systematic review. Bipolar Disorders, 11: 474–482.

Simon J, Pilling S, Burbeck R, Goldberg D (2006) Treatment options in moderate and severe depression: decision analysis supporting a clinical guideline. British Journal of Psychiatry, 189: 494-501.

Burbeck R,Coomber S, Robinson S M, Todd C (2002) Occupational Stress in Consultants in Accident and Emergency Medicine: A National Survey of Levels of Stress at Work. Emergency Medicine Journal; 19: 234-238.


Other publications

France, R (2016) Book review of The Production of Hospice Space: Conceptualising the Space of Caring and Dying. By Sarah McGann. Mortality, 21 (1): 88-89. DOI: 10.1080/13576275.2015.1098605.

France R, Sampson L, Bravery R, Low J, Candy B. (2012) Volunteer activity in end-of-life care: a national survey of current practice. BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care; 2:8[conference abstract]

Kendall T, Burbeck R, Bateman A (2010) Pharmacotherapy for borderline personality disorder: NICE guideline. The British Journal of Psychiatry 2010 v. 196, p. 158-159. [Letter]   

Kendall T, Pilling S, Tyrer P, Duggan C, Burbeck R, Meader N, Taylor C On behalf of the guideline development groups (2009) Borderline and antisocial personality disorders: summary of NICE guidance. BMJ338:b93. 

Burbeck R, Kendall T, Lelliott P, Volans G, Baston S (2008) Gut contamination of acutely poisoned patients: why is no one using the NICE guideline? Emergency Medicine Journal. 25(9): 619-20. [Letter]

Burbeck R, Pilling S, Tomson D, McDonald L (2008) Antidepressants in the postpartum period: additional considerations. American Journal of Psychiatry. 165(2): 262-3. [Letter]

Richens Y, Burbeck R, Shackleton B, Taylor C (2007) Implementation: use of the guideline.RCM Midwives Journal. 10(6):280-1. 

Tomson D, Burbeck R, Pilling S, McDonald E (2007) Depression in pregnancy: article is concerning. BMJ, 334:1072. [Letter]

Taylor C, Richens Y. Burbeck, R  (2007) Mental health and childbirth. RCM Midwives Journal, 10(4): 176-177.

Rothman R, Taylor C, Burbeck R. (2007) NICE work on good practice in mental health. Community Practitioner, 80:4, 10-11.

Taylor C, Burbeck R, Mavranezouli I, Richens Y (2006) Developing guidelines for the mental health care of mothers and mothers-to-be. RCM Midwives Journal, 9(7): 262-263.

Kendall T, Pilling S, Whittington C, Pettinari C, Burbeck R (2005) Clinical guidelines in mental health II: a guide to making NICE guidelines. Psychiatric Bulletin, 29: 3-8.

Conference presentation

British Sociological Association, Medical Sociology Interest Group Conference, Birmingham, UK, September 2014: Volunteers in end-of-life care: how is their role constructed? An ethnographic study. 

Faculty of Accident and Emergency Medicine conference, Manchester, October 2000: Occupational Stress in Consultants in Accident and Emergency Medicine: A National Survey of Levels of Stress at Work  

Conference posters

Candy B,Burbeck R, Low J, Bravery R, Sampson LThe impact of volunteers support in the care of palliative patients and their families: systematic review of qualitative and quantitative research. EAPC Conference, Prague, May 2013.

Burbeck R, Rees, R, Bravery R, Low J, Candy B.How is the role of the volunteer with direct contact with patients and families in specialist palliative care understood? A thematic meta-synthesis of qualitative literature. EAPC Conference, Prague, May 2013.

France R, Sampson L, Bravery R, Low J, Candy B. Volunteers in specialist palliative care: what do they do? A national survey of adult services. A national survey. Marie Curie Cancer Care Conference, London, March 2012.

Burbeck R, Sampson L, Scott R, Bravery R, Low J, Candy B. What do volunteers do in palliative care services for children and young people? High Visibility Event, London, 2012; Together for Short Lives conference, Birmingham, 2012.

Burbeck R,Robinson S Occupational Stress in Consultants in Accident and Emergency Medicine: A National Survey of Levels of Stress at Work. British Psychological Society annual conference, Glasgow, April 2001.  

Conference workshop

Burbeck R,Pilling S on behalf of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health and NICE Bipolar Guideline Development Group. Use of consensus conferences in guideline development.Guidelines International Network 3rd annual conference, Lyons, December 2005

My project is an ethnographic study of volunteers in a palliative care setting (a hospice). As demand for end-of-life care increases, there is likely to be an increasing demand for volunteers, who already provide an important resource for hospices. The existing literature on volunteers highlights a number of aspects of volunteering which throw up tensions and ambiguities in the volunteer role which warrant further investigation. 

First, volunteers appear to occupy a ‘middle ground’ between patients and staff. On one hand, the role is seen as distinct and separate from that of paid staff, and on the other hand, there is evidence that volunteers’ role is unclear. Does the volunteer really have a distinct identity within the hospice or is this identity constructed by volunteers themselves in order to validate and affirm their status within the hospice?

Second, studies indicate that the relationship between staff and volunteers is important in framing the volunteer role. For example, staff appear to feel threatened by volunteers, thinking they may be taking over their jobs. There is also evidence that staff ‘control’ the volunteer role, for example, by restricting access to confidential patient information which volunteers consider they need.  

Third, how the hospice as an institution affects the volunteer role is also likely to be important. Volunteering is traditionally seen as informal and flexible, but the volunteer role in hospices is becoming more job-like, with increasing pressure on hospices to conform to statutory regulations and to formalise volunteer roles.     

Fourth, how the context of death and dying affects the role will also be important. Some studies found that volunteers consider being emotionally resilient is important, while others highlight the need for training to deal with death and dying or found that volunteers avoid the topic with patients.

Exploring these and other issues using ethnographic methods (participant observation, interviews with key informants, and analysis of documentation), will provide invaluable insights into the construction of the volunteer role.   

I am a member of the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) Task Force for Volunteering in Hospice and Palliative Care in Europe


Demystifying contraception

A research grant has just been awarded to an OU researcher to demystify contraception.

15th August 2019
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