End of life care inequalities unacceptable, says Dying Matters

9 May 2016
The inequalities in end of life care shown in the Care Quality Commission's thematic review are unacceptable and need immediate remedy, says the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC), lead body of Dying Matters, which today begins its annual national Awareness Week. The NCPC is calling on the government to publish its response to 2015’s independent Choice review report on end of life care as a first step to addressing the issue.

An opinion poll by ComRes, commissioned by the NCPC, found that 82% of people in Britain agree end of life care for older people and people who are dying should be as much a priority for the NHS as care for newborn babies. The same survey found that only 25% of people agreed that “everyone in the UK currently has access to good quality end of life care” with 55% disagreeing. Younger people were more likely to agree with the statement, ,with 31% of 18-24-year-olds agreeing. Among those aged over 65, only 17% agreed, with 67% disagreeing.

The review of 40 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across England and Wales found that doctors are still refusing to accept that some elderly patients just want to die and are carrying on treatment regardless. The CQC also found that patients felt they were "left out in the cold" if they were dying from a condition other than cancer.

More than four in 10 CCGs did not have an end of life care strategy at all, while a similar number had not considered the specialist needs of very elderly people, or those with dementia.  

Simon Chapman, Director of Policy and External Affairs for the NCPC, said: “It is unacceptable for anyone to receive poor quality end of life care. It is especially troubling that people in these groups, so often overlooked and  marginalised by the rest of society, also suffer poor care at the end of their lives. The government needs to take immediate action to address these issues, starting with a response to the Choices Review.”

The Choices Review 'What’s important to me. A Review of Choice in End of Life Care' was published in February 2015 by the Choices End of Life Care Programme Board, a group of independent experts in end of life care. It was chaired by NCPC and Dying Matters Chief Executive Claire Henry. It set out a detailed, comprehensive series of costed recommendations to improve palliative care, with a goal for implementation by 2020.

Simon continued: “The CQC has done us all a great favour in publishing this report, and NCPC is glad to have helped them with it. We know what needs to be done to improve end of life care for everybody: this report is yet another reminder of why the government needs to get on with it and publish its plan to improve end of life care. There are challenges ahead in achieving the goals of the Choices Review, but they are achievable.  The British people have made it clear that they see this is as a priority: time for action is long overdue.

“How we treat dying people says a lot about how we treat the living. End of life care should be core business for the NHS but this report makes it clear that NHS leaders are too often neglecting the needs of dying people. This is why we are seeing such deep inconsistency in people’s quality and experience of care. This report lays bare the ways in which different groups suffer needlessly as they approach death. Dying does not make equals of us all. Many individual caregivers are doing their best, but for excellent end of life care for all we need training, resources, support and above all leadership that sees this as a top priority.”

More

For further information about CQC’s report, “A different ending: Addressing inequalities in end of life care”, visit: www.cqc.org.uk/differentending

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