Public Health England publishes guide to spiritual care at end of life

Categories: Care.

Noting Cicely Saunders’ observation that pain is not just physical but often has psychological, social and spiritual dimensions, the guidance looks to ensure “truly holistic and person-centred care at end of life” and “that any spiritual needs of the individuals are addressed.”

The resource – entitled Faith at the end of life – focuses on the UK’s six largest religions (according to the 2011 census): Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.

It also promotes a public health approach to death, dying and bereavement, highlighting the importance of community in maintaining and promoting the wellbeing of people who are dying, caring or bereaved.

In his foreword to the new guidance, Professor John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England, writes: “At the end of life, many people do not wish to be separated from the communities in which they have lived, and those close to them are likely to require local support to cope with their loss.

“In addition, this is a time when, for some people, spiritual matters come to the fore and can be a great comfort both to the individual concerned, their carers and their loved ones. Public health approaches to end of life care, focusing on community-centred care and support, have much to offer to maintain and promote the wellbeing of people who are dying, caring or bereaved.”

The resource includes case studies as examples of good practice, including a profile of St Joseph’s Hospice’s ‘Compassionate Neighbours’ project.

Compassionate Neighbours are volunteers recruited from communities who may not traditionally access hospice services – often, members of these communities have specific cultural or faith requirements at the end of life that they are not certain a hospice will be able to fulfil.

Volunteers take part in an eight-week training programme in which they work out their own reactions to death and dying, and how to support people at the end of their lives. The hospice is now looking to extend the programme, developing a group of volunteers to become champions for the project.

The guidance concludes with eight specific recommendations for healthcare professionals – which include identifying the role of the family in the decision-process of a care plan and providing links to faith leaders if necessary – and a further five for service providers and commissioners, one of which is to sign up to the Dying Well Community Charter with the National Council of Palliative Care.

The full guide can be downloaded from the government website.

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