Strong national vision on end of life care must continue

9 April 2014
A strong national vision is required if the care of people who are at or approaching the end of their lives is not to be put at risk, according to a new report, "The end of life care strategy: New ambitions", by the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC).

The warning comes after it emerged that NHS England no longer plans to refresh existing national strategy documents, reversing an earlier announcement that it would be refreshing the National End of Life Care Strategy, which was five years old in 2013. Instead NHS England plans to publish new sets of actions and ambitions, which NCPC is concerned will not carry the same authority as the current strategy.

While welcoming the inclusion of end of life care as a priority in the most recent NHS Mandate, the report raises concerns that the momentum behind the National End of Life Care Strategy may be lost and calls for any new actions or ambitions to command the same level of credibility at a national and local level that the National End of Life Care Strategy has done.

The report also calls for end of life care to be explicitly linked to other national priorities, including care for people with dementia and plans for vulnerable older people, as well as for greater priority to be given to developing ways of measuring whether people received good end of life care. Developing a measure of this type could mean less reliance being placed in the future on a commonly used measure, Death in the Usual Place of Residence, which doesn’t give insight into people’s quality and experience of care. 

Claire Henry, Chief Executive of the National Council for Palliative Care, said: A great deal of progress has been made since the National End of Life Care Strategy was published, but in the reformed NHS the need for a credible and compelling national vision is more important than ever to ensure that end of life care is seen as a core priority by decision-makers right across the country. Following the failings identified in the reports into both the Liverpool Care Pathway and Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, it is essential that we get end of life care right, but this will only happen if we build on the momentum of recent years and transform care of dying people once and for all. 

"This must also be accompanied by a National Conversation about dying, so that all of us, including health and care professionals and the media, take part in discussions about dying to raise awareness of this important part of life that we will all encounter, and to help ensure that we make people’s care and experience as good as it can be.”

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Download The end of life care strategy: New Ambitions

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