Entitled ‘Quality at the end of life, breaking down the barriers’, the conference took place on 21 October at Green Park in Aston Clinton.
With six sessions throughout the day, the conference highlighted the barriers to providing quality care and focussed on the need for all care providers to work collaboratively to adopt a patient-centred approach and measure the outcomes of their care accurately and consistently.
The conference was chaired by Elaine Coleridge-Smith, trustee of Rennie Grove, and the keynote speech was given by Simon Chapman, director of policy, intelligence and public affairs at The National Council for Palliative Care and the Dying Matters Coalition.
In his speech, Chapman recognised that while some excellence in care existed – as evidenced by the UK’s recent top ranking in the Quality of Death Index – there are still considerable barriers to ensuring that excellent care is available for all.
He highlighted the poor co-ordination and fragmentation of care, a lack of discussion and planning, inequalities and unfairness in access to services, poor symptom control, the poor quality and use of data and a slow speed of change as key barriers that must be addressed.
Chapman also spoke of a need for a national conversation about dying so that people know what to expect when they or their loved ones face their final days and outlined the principles behind the National Palliative and End of Life Care Partnership. This initiative aims to bring care providers together to act collaboratively to ensure that the last stage of life is as good as possible for patients and families.
Dr Fliss Murtagh, reader and consultant in palliative medicine at King’s College London, focused her presentation on the need for the palliative care sector to record outcomes consistently and accurately and move away from relying on “a drawer full of thank you letters” as proof of a job well done.
She stressed the importance of measuring the right things and outlined how the new Integrated Palliative care Outcome Scale would help measure complexity and quality of care and provide solid evidence to drive improvement in services and with which to build a case for more funding.
Other sessions during the day included:
- an enlightening talk by Robert Tobin from Kennedys Law on the law around end of life care
- an informative look at the issues surrounding when to stop chemotherapy and move to palliative care led by Dr Nick Bates, clinical oncologist from the John Radcliffe and Stoke Mandeville Hospitals
- practical advice for managing diabetes at end of life from specialist diabetes nurse Frances Moss
- a presentation about a new initiative developed by a Rennie Grove volunteer, Doreen Beattie, to help day hospice patients tell and record their life stories.
Jo Oates, head of professional development and quality assurance at Rennie Grove, commented: “I would like to thank all of our speakers for giving such thought-provoking and informative presentations. The sessions provided a mixture of practical advice and information to enhance our practice as well as setting out the national agenda for palliative and end of life care.
“We all know that there are challenges ahead in the palliative care sector and days like this bring practitioners from many different settings together and help instil confidence that we can all work collaboratively for a better future.”