The Government has been criticised for failings in palliative care after findings published in BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care revealed widespread inadequacies.
The Royal College of Nurses (RCN), along with Baroness Ilora Finlay, have called on parliament to keep moving forward with the National Commitment on End of Life Care following the new research.
The study found inadequacies in the quality of end-of-life care in England, some of which were attributed to ‘inconsistent provision’.
It was discovered that budgets for palliative care from the 29 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) that took part ranged from £2,329 to just £52 per patient per annum.
NHS England’s national clinical director for end-of-life care, professor Bee Wee said: ‘International comparisons rate the UK as the best country in the world for end of life care, and a recent survey again found that three quarters of bereaved people rated the overall quality of care for their relative as good or better.’
NHS England said: ‘We continue to work with other national organisations and charities to support people, including providing specific guidance on specialist palliative care.’
The BMJ study revealed that 17% of patients do not have the option to die in their home while receiving specialist care.
And nearly 70% of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) do not allocate money for pain control teams for terminally ill patients, and when they do, they mostly operate during office hours only.
- 78% currently commission seven-day admission to their specialist palliative care beds
- 83% commission seven-day specialist palliative care services in patients’ own homes
- Out-of-hours services rely heavily on hospice provision
- 31% commission pain control teams, the majority of whom only operate in regular working hours
- 68% reported commissioning palliative care education of any sort for healthcare professionals
- 45% had no plans to update or review their palliative care services
‘No one has to die in needless distress’
Amanda Cheesley, RCN professional lead for long-term conditions and end-of-life care, said: ‘Health care staff now have the skills and expertise to ensure that no one has to die in needless distress, yet far too many people are still not receiving the care they deserve.
‘The National Commitment promised to provide the tools to meet all patients’ needs, but this research shows this remains a hope rather than a reality. Without accurate data on how many people need end-of-life care, too many patients will slip through the cracks.’
‘If the Government is serious about its commitment, it needs to make palliative care a priority for the future of our health care services,’ Cheesley said.