Message in a bottle for end of life care

21 March 2011
East and North Herts NHS Trust is leading a campaign to help terminally ill people die at home rather than in hospital.

The multi-agency campaign is called Message In A Bottle. The bottle refers to a plastic container in which patients place documentation about their end of life care wishes. The container is then placed in the fridge for health carers to see. The container is similar to those already used to tell health carers about a patient’s medical condition.

Carolyn Fowler, a Macmillan lecturer and practitioner of end of life care at the Trust, said the initiative should help patients achieve their dying wishes.

“Talking about and preparing for death is something that many people find really difficult. Yet for those with a life-limiting illness, it can be incredibly important,” she said.

“Our campaign should help support patients who choose to be cared for and die at home, to spend precious time with loved ones at the end of their lives, rather than end up in hospital.

“Additionally, it should help bring to an end the trauma of people being resuscitated against their wishes, only to die in a busy A&E department or acute hospital ward.”

The trust said that 70 per cent of people surveyed would rather be cared for and die in their own home than in hospital.

Currently 35.8 per cent of people in Hertfordshire die at home or in a care home. The trust wants to increase that figure to 50 per cent by 2015.

The Message in a Bottle campaign forms part of the Trust's work in implementing the Preferred Priorities of Care guidance (the document where a patient’s wishes and preferences can be written), which in turn represents a major element of the national NHS End of Life Care programme.

The campaign seeks to support staff working for a range of NHS, local authority and voluntary organisations, including hospices, in ensuring that people with a life-limiting illness can access the help and support they need to ensure good quality of life during the end stage of their illness.

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