The goal that choice around end of life care should be “significantly improved” by 2020 – with an increase in the number of people able to die in the place of their choice – has been outlined in the latest NHS mandate.
The annual mandate sets out the government’s budget and objectives for the NHS between April 2016 to March 2017.
The mandate calls for NHS England to ensure people are empowered to shape and manage their own health and care and make meaningful choices – particularly people with long-term conditions and at the end of life.
In order to reach the 2020 target, the mandate calls on NHS England to produce a plan with specific milestones for improving patient choice around end of life care.
The End of Life Care Coalition, a group a charities committed to improving end of life care, welcomed the inclusion of end of life care as a stated priority in the mandate.
Commenting on behalf of the coalition, Simon Jones explained: “Around three million people will die over the course of this parliament. Making high quality end of life care a stated priority in the NHS Mandate is an important signal that the government is committed to improving care and support for every dying person and promoting the local leadership needed to do this.
“Over this year there has been a series of reports which show that too many dying people and their families are still let down in their final weeks and days. This not only causes distress and suffering for the individuals involved, but also leads to significant numbers of unnecessary and unwanted hospital admissions, creating further pressure on an already stretched acute service.”
Adding: “We now look forward to the government’s much anticipated response to the Review of choice at the end of life, in which we hope they will cement their commitment to making high quality care and choice at the end of life a reality for everyone by fully implementing its recommendations.”
Commenting on the new mandate, Jonathan Ellis, director of policy and advocacy at Hospice UK said: “The inclusion of end of life care as a priority in the Department of Health’s new Mandate to NHS England is a highly welcome development. The pledge to ensure that more people die in the place of their choice sends a clear message that the government is committed to improving care for dying people.
“This year, report after report has highlighted that care for dying people, especially in hospitals, falls woefully short and that there is a paucity of choice when it comes to where people spend their last days. This means that hospital is often the default option for end of life care, at the expense of more appropriate, community-based options and which also creates additional pressures for already over-stretched acute care services.
“Hospices have a key role to play in helping increase choice for people at the end of life, especially given their partnerships with a wide range of care providers and the high level of support they provide in people’s homes. We hope the government will draw more upon hospices’ expertise as part of its wider move to expand choice in end of life care.”