UK charity Marie Curie Cancer Care, in partnership with Sue Ryder and Help the Hospices, organised a special fringe event at the three main political party conferences in the UK last month to get this onto the political agenda. Imelda Redmond, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Marie Curie Cancer Care, UK, explains
With the number of deaths set to increase by 17% to 590,000 by 2030, in the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) needs to ensure we can both cope with the demand and ensure patients can choose whether they receive care in a community or hospital setting. A rapidly ageing population and increases in the number of people with complex long-term conditions will inevitably lead to greater demands on end of life care providers and rocketing costs for the NHS, which are predicted to rise from £20billion to £25billion by 2030.
Marie Curie’s Death and Dying report shows that 40% of people who die in hospital have no medical need to be there. We also know that 63% of people want to die at home compared to just 8% in a hospital but the reality is that almost 55% of people are dying in hospitals. Making it possible for more people to die at home, or in hospices, could lead to greater efficiency and potential cost savings for the NHS.
Terminally ill people with no need to be hospitalised, can find it hard to get back home, or to a hospice. This can be because they are unable to get a social care package to support them put in place swiftly, or because there is a lack of palliative care services in their community.
Marie Curie believes the NHS must take a longer-term view when it comes to end of life care. We are urging all Clinical Commissioning Groups to look at how they create more capacity for palliative and end of life care across a range of settings, including hospices, at home, hospitals and in care homes.
A key way to facilitate this could be through encouraging stronger partnerships between hospitals and hospices, to help improve hospital care and increasing the range of care available in the community.
We want all healthcare commissioners to commit to the idea that everyone in the UK can have a good death involving access to social care, 24/7 palliative care, good pain management, quality advice and information and support for families and carers.
Better identification of people who are in the last days and weeks of life, increased provision of community-based services and greater integration of hospital and community-based services are essential to help reduce the pressures on the NHS and increase choices and services for people at the end of life.
The National Bereavement Survey – VOICES found that only 32% of people who had died from a terminal illness were aware that they were going to die and less than half of patients (44%) had expressed a choice. As we plan for the future, we must ensure that everyone in the UK can die where they want to surrounded by those they love.
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