This blog was first published on the Marie Curie blog in May 2021. https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/blog/national-plan-for-better-end-of-life-care/296360 . ehospice is grateful for permission to republish.
The need for better care and support at the end of life, and through grief, is clearer than ever. Shaped by 27 health and social care charities, this new framework will put us on the right course for positive change. This last year, more than ever in recent memory, we’ve been reminded that death will affect us all. During the pandemic, many people had experiences of care which fell far short of what we all hope for and should be able to expect.
So how can we work together to change this, and ensure everyone has the best possible experience at the end of life? And how should we care for people left behind, whose lives are forever changed by loss?
With demand for palliative and end of life care set to increase rapidly over the next two decades as our population ages, now is a critical time for answering these questions. And the new and refreshed national framework for palliative and end of life care in England – launched in May – aims to do just that.
Six fronts for collective action
Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care is the result of a long-standing collaboration between twenty seven health and social care charities, operating at national and local level.
The new framework sets our sights high by calling for collective action on six fronts to ensure that in future everyone has the best possible experience of dying, death and bereavement.
Asking ‘What matters to you?’
The first ambition is that each person is seen as an individual by being asked in an honest, informed, and timely fashion what matters most to them when planning ahead towards the end of life.
We can already see this in action with our new project in Somerset which aims to help more than 4,000 people complete an Advance Care Plan either in person or on the phone with support from a specially trained volunteer. Partners include Somerset CCG, NHS Foundation Trust and Yeovil District Hospital.
Better care for every single person
The second ambition is that each person gets fair access to care, regardless of who they are, where they live, or their personal circumstances.
We feel that we should understand better the needs of people who currently don’t access palliative and end of life care to see how services should be adapted to make them more accessible to a wider range of people and communities.
Next month, Marie Curie will be supporting the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Terminal Illness to launch a new report calling for action to tackle the impact of housing and fuel poverty on end of life care. Our friends at Hospice UK also recently highlighted inequalities in end of life care for – people in prison .
And after a year in which up to 6.2 million people may have been bereaved, our National Day of Reflection brought organisations, charities and communities together – including the National Bereavement Alliance – to reflect on the needs of people living with loss. This includes people living in the deprived communities and Black and minority ethnic groups worst affected by Covid-19, and those whose loved ones died from other causes.
The future is about people within their communities and supporting compassionate community action. We’re exploring ways in which we might facilitate this through a collaboration between Nesta, St Christopher’s Hospice and Marie Curie .
Wellbeing, staff support and joined-up care
Other ambitions in the framework include maximising comfort and wellbeing, ensuring care is co-ordinated and that all staff feel prepared to give care that is safe, effective, and compassionate by staff that have the right capabilities and are confident about their knowledge and skills.
Sharing, spreading and embedding best practice
With more people likely to die in private homes and care homes in coming years, the efforts of primary care, community and social care staff will be key to realising this ambition.
At Marie Curie, we’re already working hard to spread and support best practice in palliative and end of life care across the health and social care sector. For example, we recently launched a new programme to deliver the Daffodil Standards for quality end of life care in care homes in partnership with The Royal College of GPs, the The Royal College of Nursing and The Registered Nursing Home Association. We’re also working with care provider Hallmark Care Homes to implement the care group’s end of life care strategy.
Perhaps the most crucial ambition for making this happen is that each one of us in every community is prepared to play their part. We’re proud to be working with Compassionate Communities and others to help realise the right of everyone to the best possible end of life experience.
If you work in the health and social care sector, you have a crucial role in turning these ambitions into a reality. Thank you for playing your part. Together we can make sure everyone in the UK gets to live life as well as they possibly can, right till the end – and that those left behind aren’t facing loss alone.
Julie Pearce, Chief Nurse, Executive Director of Quality & Caring Services, Marie Curie