Dying isn’t Working

Following Kate Granger’s blog entry on her personal response to the withdrawal of the Liverpool Care Pathway, we present a blog from Jason Suckley, director of Policy and Campaigns at Sue Ryder, explains what healthcare professionals could do to improve end of life careTrees-nurse-man-wheelchair

In a civilised society and 65 years since the establishment of the NHS, it’s totally unacceptable that individuals and their families remain unsupported at the one of the most life-changing and emotionally challenging times.  Your diagnosis, where you live, or who your doctor is shouldn’t pre-determine whether or not you have a good death – we want to change that.

To work towards addressing the problem, in June, we launched our campaign, “Dying isn’t Working”.  The campaign is based on our own experience as a service provider of end of life care and evidence from two reports we’ve produced with think-tank Demos – Ways and Means (published on 19 June), looking at barriers to accessing end of life care, and A time and a place (published on 9 July), exploring what people want at end of life.  Insights from the reports highlight a number of ways in which healthcare professionals can improve end of life care for all.

A recurring insight was that there needs to be better communication with patients and their families at end of life.  Healthcare professionals are trained to ‘cure’ people and can sometimes find it difficult to have honest conversations needed so that people and their loved ones can make informed decisions about their preferred end of life care and plan ahead as well as access support.  There is evidence to show that this happens better where someone has a cancer diagnosis as opposed to other conditions.

To make this happen end of life care needs to be more strongly embedded in medical and healthcare training. As a specialist palliative care provider we currently offer training for GPs and also placements in our hospices during nurse training which feedback shows is highly valued by professionals.

Whilst we welcome the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) review’s recommendation for Health Education England to raise awareness of diagnostic tools at the end of life and train people in their use, we believe that this needs to go further to include basic end of life care training – this is why Sue Ryder is calling on end of life care to be included in the Health Education England Mandate, it is currently excluded.

At present we have a lottery where some professionals are able to support people to make informed decisions and access high quality care but others do not. As the LCP review highlighted communication is key and there is only one chance to get this right for people and their families.

To read more about Sue Ryder’s Dying isn’t Working campaign and the two reports’ recommendations to improve end of life care for all, click here.

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