Sharing best practice British palliative care with China

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I have just returned from a tour of Chinese medical facilities and universities to share best British practice on palliative care. 

I am currently leading the development of a state-of-the-art hospice facility in South Bucks which will open in May next year.  The new pioneering facility offers lymphoedema care, unlimited psychotherapy for both patients and families, and an area specifically designed for 17-28 year olds, currently an under-resourced group.

The tour’s aim was to investigate training opportunities between Britain and China and as a result, China hopes to send staff to South Bucks Hospice next year.

The trip, which had the backing of the Chinese government, was arranged by Blue Peaks Healthcare. The British company specialises in creating international healthcare collaborations and using them to deliver transformative change on the ground. Their endeavours are starting to bring much-needed income into NHS and third-sector organisations in return for genuine improvements to global health.

I visited hospitals in Jiangxi (population, 40 million) and Hunan (65 million) and spoke to senior medical directors in both provinces.

Palliative care in China is close to non-existent and facilities are affected by cultural superstitions, which form a large part of the Chinese belief system.

Both Britain and China face similar challenges of ageing populations, both nations currently have more people aged over 65 than under 25. 

In Britain, we are fortunate to live in a society that recognises the importance of end of life care and pioneers the choices available.  This is not yet the case in China. 

A 2015 report by The Economist Intelligence Unit on the global Quality of Death Index rated Britain as number one in the index and China as number 71 out of 80 countries.

I was overwhelmed by the commitment, professionalism and enthusiasm of the Chinese medical profession and their appetite to learn.  The level of professionalism first became apparent in the incredible level of cleanliness in the hospitals I visited. 

Doctors regularly worked 14 hours per day with commitment and devotion.  In balance to the professionalism, one hospital had a lovely notice board showing pictures of the staff in their lives ’off duty’. Another facility had a ’thought of the day board’ where medical professionals would post a positive thought for patients to read.

There are some notable differences in the way that care is provided.  For example, it is normal practice for a family to be advised of a patient’s diagnosis and for them to decide if the should advise the patient or not.

Touchingly, doctors and nurses frequently do performances and shows for their patients.  I was also taken by bereavement care being readily available for the whole family.

We have already borrowed many ideas and practices from the East, acupuncture, meditation, Reiki, and these practices help to improve the quality of our patients’ physical and spiritual lives. 

I think there is much more for us to learn.  I am very excited about the prospect of further assisting China to improve its end of life care.

This article originally appeared on the UK edition of ehospice

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