Lansley reveals issues with father's NHS death

19 May 2011
<p>Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was among an illustrious line-up of speakers at the National Council for Palliative Care’s (NCPC) 20th anniversary event on 17 May, which took place during Dying Matters Awareness Week. The NCPC is the umbrella organisation for Dying Matters.</p>

The event, which formed part of the government’s listening exercise about the proposed NHS modernisation plans, saw the Health Secretary talk about his own personal experience when his father died last year, in particular, the difficulties he encountered in ensuring his father had a “good death”.

He commented: "Sometimes we fall prey to doctors and nurses treating individual patients well, but the system doesn't treat them holistically."

He told the audience that even as Health Secretary it had been difficult to work out who was in charge of his 89-year-old father’s care. Despite this, he said that his father died a 'good death' in the middle of the night with a Marie Curie nurse by his side.

“When we talk about what does a good death look like, I have had a chance to see it," he said.

The Health Secretary was one of a number of speakers at the NCPC event, which was held at the Royal Society of Medicine, central London. Others included broadcasters Dame Joan Bakewell and Esther Rantzen, Chief Executive of Marie Curie Tom Hughes Hallett, end of life care campaigner Mandy Paine and Diana Melly, widow of jazz singer and author George Melly, as well as Professor Mayur Lakhani, NCPC Chairman.

The evening commenced with a performance of Olivier Award winner Nell Dunn's new play Home Death, an unflinching dissection of how we deal with the reality of dying.

Speaking before the event, the Health Secretary said: "As we support the NHS in changing, so that it is more responsive to patients with greater clinical leadership, I want to use the opportunities such as this event with the National Council for Palliative Care to ensure we listen to patients and clinicians about how we can help them further to improve the quality of care received at the end of life."

Chief Executive, Eve Richardson said: "Caring for the dying is a measure of a civilised society and we only get one chance to get it right.

"We are delighted that Andrew Lansley is willing to listen as part the government’s commitment to ongoing improvements in end of life care and ensuring the vulnerable don’t fall through the net during periods of change in the NHS. With someone dying in Britain every minute, end of life care has never been more important."

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