UK report points to gaps in end of life care and cost-effectiveness of palliative care services

Categories: Research.

According to the UK edition of ehospice: “the report pulls together existing evidence and highlights how certain factors – such where people live, the condition they have, their age, and their ethnic background – can affect the quality of care they experience.”

While the UK is classified by the WHPCA as being in ‘Group 4b’ of palliative care development – the highest possible classification – indicating ‘advanced integration’ of palliative care services, the LSE report suggests that there are many areas for improvement.

After exploring the economic implications of extending palliative care services to the under-served populations identified in the report, the authors note that palliative care interventions are cost-effective, when compared to potential savings on other costs, such as those of acute care.

The report states: “it seems probable that investment in good quality palliative care can be offset by reductions in acute care costs.”

Alternative models of care

Marie Curie CEO, Dr Jane Collins commented: “These findings do not paint a great picture for people living with a terminal illness in the UK today. It is undeniable that many people do not get the care and support they need and everyone from medical professionals, researchers, policy-makers and those affected by terminal illness understand this. If the current system of care is failing to deliver now, how will it cope with the demand to come?

“There is a need for alternative models of care and capacity building – particularly in the community – to address the inequities of the current system and to meet the projected demands of the post-war, baby-boomer generation in the years to come. If we don’t do this, we as a society will continue to fail vulnerable people at the time they need us most.”

New campaign

Coinciding with the launch of the report, Marie Curie have launched a new campaign calling for a national conversation about end of life care, as well as an information and support service for people with life limiting illnesses and their families.

Marie Curie have suggested five key questions that require consideration:

  • How are we going to find the resources to care for more people with more complex needs?
  • How will people be able to choose where and how they will live towards the end of their life?
  • How will we support families and communities to care for and support people?
  • How will we make sure everyone with a terminal illness gets the same quality and ease of access to care?
  • How will professionals get all the training and support they need to provide high quality care, focussed on the individual?

Prioritising inequalities in end of life care

David Praill, chief executive of Hospice UK, welcomed the report and Marie Curie’s new campaign, commenting: “An unacceptably high number of terminally ill people are being deprived of the support they need at the end of life. There are alarming gaps in our care system, with too many instances of poorly co-ordinated palliative care and inconsistencies in how this is delivered.

“Tackling inequalities in end of life care must be a priority. Around the country, hospices are taking action to reach more people in their local communities, through direct care or working with other care providers including hospitals. As part of this, hospices are working to tackle the number of people in hospital at the end of life who have no medical need to be there. Hospice UK is calling on the Government and NHS to support this work.”

You can download the report and a summary of the main findings from the Marie Curie website. 

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