NHS North East publishes A Good Death: time to think

18 November 2010
Details from the UK’s first ever regional public consultation on death and dying were published on 15 November 2010. The three-month survey – carried out by NHS North East, supported by Dying Matters – was designed to improve end of life care and support by encouraging people to talk about it.

More information about attitudes towards ‘a good death’ is available in a full colour leaflet and an online document to view or download at agooddeath.co.uk

Professor Edwin Pugh, consultant in end of life care for NHS North East, said: “The results of the consultation showed that very few people see death as an inevitable part of life.

“Almost one in five of us are uncomfortable talking about death and there are a wide variety of reasons for this.

“People told us that the subject is too upsetting, that they were too busy to think about it or that they hadn’t decided what they want.”

A charter for a good death being developed in the North East is the first of its kind in the UK. It sets out proposals for the kind of care and support which people who are dying, their families and carers, can expect to receive.

Once agreed, it will guide health, social care, voluntary groups and others who plan and provide end of life care or support.

The Dying Matters Coalition was also involved in the consultation.

Director Hilary Fisher says in a foreword to the new report: “The North East's approach to implementation of a charter for a good death is unique in the UK and has much to commend it.

“I am greatly encouraged by the survey findings, which help to raise awareness about what people feel is most important as death approaches.

“This is a vital first step towards achieving the vision that we can build a responsible, compassionate society where death is accepted as a normal part of life and where the policies and practice of all organisations are sympathetic to the needs of dying people, their families and carers.”

Professor Pugh added: “We really want to encourage people to try to talk more openly about death as a part of life, particularly with family, friends and carers.

“We’re hoping that by making appropriate changes to the care or help provided by formal services, combined with an open and compassionate approach from wider society and communities, people will receive the best support possible to meet their needs at this most difficult time of life.

“To keep this important subject in the spotlight – and to be as open as possible about our consultation – we have decided to publish these two documents.

“We hope people find them informative, easy to read and that they spark off more conversations among members of the public and the providers of end of life care.

“I hope as many people as possible will take the opportunity to read these documents, and bring them to the attention of others who might find them useful.”

Almost 2,500 people had their say by completing a questionnaire online or on street in the consultation held at the end of last year.

A number of focus groups and telephone interviews also took place to gather more in depth views from certain groups.

The consultation revealed that:

• almost two in three have not discussed their end of life wishes
• more than half would prefer to die at home
• the majority said that being free of pain was the most important thing when it comes to end of
life care
• nine in ten would want to be told if they had a terminal illness
• one in six said that making death easier for family would be the main reason for making formal
plans.
• those aged between 35 and 44 are most likely to have an organ donor card.

The charter will be used by NHS North East and its partners to guide the provision of the right services and support to meet people’s needs at the end of life.

It has been developed as part of the Better Health Fairer Health and Our vision, our future strategies to improve health and services in the region.

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