Wales Health Minister supports Awareness Week
People in Wales are less likely to have written any sort of advance care plan than anywhere else in Britain, according to research released for Dying Matters Awareness Week, which runs from 12-18 May. Just 2% of the public have expressed their preferences for future care in writing, should there come a time when they are unable to make decisions for themselves. Meanwhile, 85% of the Welsh public believe that people in Britain are uncomfortable discussing dying and death.
Wales’ Health Minister Mark Drakeford says that planning for the end of life is "vital".
“We make plans for life’s biggest events - births, graduations and weddings – but all too often we hide away from the one which will have the biggest impact on the people around us," he said.
“It is vital that we talk, plan and make arrangements for the end of life before it’s too late. It is only through open and honest conversation our wishes will be known. This is why I want to encourage conversations with family, friends, carers and healthcare professionals about end-of-life wishes, to support us in thinking about our own mortality, to help us to support as good a death as possible for each of us.
“The more conversations and the more planning we can do, the better care we can offer at end of life. Planning for end of life means we are more likely to achieve the care and, ultimately, the death an individual would wish for.”
Our research also revealed that nearly half of people in Wales who are in a relationship do not know their partner's end of life wishes. Less than a third are registered organ donors or have a donor card, and likewise less than a third have written a will. Perhaps as a result of a lack of planning around end of life wishes, almost a third of people in Wales have been involved in a family argument following a death, with money or property the main cause; 82% believe all adults should be required to have a will to avoid disputes.
There’s also a real desire for doctors to receive support in talking about dying: 89% of people in Wales agree that all healthcare professionals should receive compulsory training in how to talk sensitively to people who are dying and their families.
Professor Mayur Lakhani, a practising GP and Chair of the Dying Matters Coalition and the National Council for Palliative Care, commented: “Discussing dying is rarely easy, but unless we have the conversations that matter we’re unlikely to get the right care and support. Although it’s encouraging that increasing numbers of doctors are discussing end of life wishes with patients to help get them the right care and support, there’s still a long way to go. What we need now is a national conversation about dying, so that healthcare professionals and the general public become more comfortable in discussing dying, death and bereavement. Dying matters, so let’s talk about it.”
The first of two national conferences in Wales will be taking place on Tuesday 13 May aimed at encouraging people to have more open and honest conversations about the end of life. Representatives from community organisations have been invited to learn more about the issues that need to considered when life comes to an end, and these groups will be challenged to take this learning back to their communities and hold further conversations. The second conference is taking place in Llandudno on 29 May.