A leading end-of-life care expert has warned that a rising death rate will lead to an "avalanche of need" among dying patients.
Professor Keri Thomas says the needs and wishes of thousands more patients will go unmet unless end-of-life care is improved in the next three years.
Speaking at the Burlington Hotel, Birmingham, at the launch of a revised and updated national programme to help GPs and community nurses meet the needs of dying patients, Prof Thomas said: "The next three years are crucial for primary care if we are to ensure that we can deliver a gold standard of end-of-life care for all who need it by 2012, the start of the upturn in deaths and looming avalanche of need awaiting us."
Prof Thomas, the National Clinical Lead for the Gold Standards Framework Centre, said: "We have come a long way over the last few years since GSF began in 2001. More people are receiving good-quality end-of-life care where they want it. But much more needs to be done. That is why we are launching Next Stage GSF Primary Care – Going for Gold.
"We invite clinicians to join in this challenge - one of the greatest challenges we face in healthcare and as a society - to provide high quality care for all people nearing the end of life, with any condition, in any setting, at any time.
The Gold Standards Framework (GSF) is a systematic, commonsense approach to formalising best practice, so that quality end-of-life care becomes standard for every patient. It helps clinicians identify patients in the last year of life, assess their needs, symptoms and preferences and plan care on that basis, enabling patients to live and die where they choose.
Almost all GP practices have a palliative care register and 85% have a planning meeting, which equates to Foundation Level GSF. Almost two thirds of practices have adopted deeper levels of the programme. The National GSF Centre is now ready to work with practices to enable them to deliver quality end of life care in the patient's preferred place.
GSF Primary Care Next Stage ‐ Going for Gold is the result of an extensive review of the programme. It integrates latest thinking and includes new ideas, tools, training programmes and resources to help practices improve their care for end-of-life patients.