The government has made six commitments to provide all patients coming to the end of their lives with high quality and compassionate care.
The commitments include ensuring that patients have honest and informed discussions with healthcare professionals, personalised care plans, and a key contact available at all times of the day. The government has also said that the NMC will include appropriate provision in end-of-life care in its required competencies.
‘Our commitment is that every person nearing the end of their life should expect a good death: attentive, dignified and compassionate care,’ said health minister Ben Gummer. ‘To do this, we will address poor care where it exists and accelerate improvement across the health and social care system in England.’
The commitments have been made in response to What’s Important to Me: a review of choice in end of life care, a report published in February 2015 by an independent panel chaired by Claire Henry, chief executive of the National Council for Palliative Care. While the government’s commitment has been welcomed by the National Council for Palliative Care, concern has been raised by the lack of a funding commitment to achieve the desired standard of end-of-life care by 2020.
‘We are concerned that, despite the recommendations of the Choice Review, there is no dedicated funding to support this,’ said Simon Chapman, director of policy and external affairs for the National Council for Palliative Care. ‘It is therefore all the more important that end-of-life care genuinely becomes a core priority for the health and care system, so that we bring an end to the inconsistency and uncertainty that so many people experience. We would also have liked to have seen commitments to support bereaved people as well as stronger commitments to raise public awareness and change behaviour in relation to dying death and bereavement.'
The report outlined variations in end-of-life care depending on the day of the week, something which the government has pledged to tackle. This will be done by ensuring experts can provide specialist support on end of life care by acting as a first point of contact for anyone who needs them. Additionally, the government will work with Health Education England to provide 70,000 nurses, midwives and allied health professionals training in end-of-life care.
‘To implement the new national commitment for end of life care we all need to work together to make this a reality, to ensure that a real difference can be made to people nearing the end of life and their families,’ said Ms Henry. ‘It will be vital that we continue to work with the government to ensure all these commitments are realised as part of all future care delivery.’