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Living well until we die

NHS England’s National Clinical Director for End of Life Care marks the start of Hospice Care Week:

This is Hospice Care Week and it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness of the contribution that hospices make to patient care and experiences.

It’s also a chance to join the conversation taking place nationally about dying, death and bereavement.

With a rapidly ageing society, increasing multi-morbidity and changing patterns of illness, more of us will need palliative care. In fact, if recent mortality trends continue, 160,000 more people in England and Wales will need palliative care by 2040.

High quality palliative care should be accessible to everyone. We will all die. And when we face the end of our lives, we should expect to be offered the highest possible quality of care that attends to our physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual needs. Our families and those close to us should feel valued, involved and supported.

Palliative and hospice care all over the world demonstrates how this can be achieved.  The care that we receive as we approach the end of our life should encompass our emotional, social and spiritual needs, as well as our physical needs, and the needs of our family.

Each of us is a unique human being. We have needs, preferences and priorities that are unique to us. Hospice care places a strong emphasis on personalised care.

As well as doctors and nurses, hospice care teams include social workers, therapists, counsellors and trained volunteers, who together provide holistic package of care that helps us to live as well as possible until we die.

Hospice Care Week is an opportunity to celebrate everyone involved in providing and supporting care, and to hear their stories.

The Ambitions for palliative and end of life care partnership, of which NHS England is a member, was published in 2015. It demonstrates a strong system-wide national commitment to improving palliative and end of life care across the whole of England, in all care settings, for all age groups.

The partnership is made up of 27 organisations representing health and social care, statutory and voluntary bodies, including hospice and palliative care organisations.

As the Ambitions framework makes clear, cross-organisational collaboration is vital in designing ways of working that meet the needs of patients, families and communities, and each community is prepared to help.

As the way we develop and provide health and care services through STPs continues to develop, it’s clear now more than ever that integrated health and social care systems that “work with people, as well as for people” (Ambitions) are the key to improving the quality of life of people and their families with a life-limiting illness.

Across the country, the hospice sector invests over £1 billion of charitable funding in local communities to meet palliative care needs, annually. It’s important to remember that hospice care is an approach to care rather than being building-bound.  In fact, the majority of hospice care takes place in people’s homes, through community palliative care teams and hospice at home services, working closely with primary and community teams.

On the Thursday of Hospice Care Week, World Hospice and Palliative Care Day takes place, celebrating and supporting hospice and palliative care around the world. This, along with UK Hospice Care Week not only raises awareness and understanding of the needs of people living with a life limiting illness, and their families, it also encourages conversation about the issues.

It’s important that we talk about death and dying – as the recent publication by Age UK and the Malnutrition Taskforce illustrates. Take a look at this publication and its accompanying animation. We should take opportunities such as Hospice Care Week to open up these conversations and talk to one another about our thoughts and wishes.

You can find out more about NHS England’s work on improving end of life care by visiting the web pages, and the Ambitions partnership by visiting the Ambitions website.

  • Hospice Care Week runs from 9 to 15 October.
Professor Bee Wee

Professor Bee Wee, FRCP FRCGP FAcadMEd MA Ed PhD, is National Clinical Director for End of Life Care for NHS England.

Bee is Consultant in Palliative Medicine at Sir Michael Sobell House, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Associate Professor at University of Oxford, where she is also Associate Director of Clinical Studies and Fellow of Harris Manchester College.

Originally from Malaysia, Bee qualified from Trinity College Dublin in 1988, trained in general practice in Dublin, then moved into palliative medicine in Ireland, Hong Kong and the UK. She was Consultant/Senior Lecturer at Countess Mountbatten House, Southampton (1995-2003), where she became Deputy Director of Education, School of Medicine at the University. She was President of the Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain and Ireland (2010-13), National Clinical Lead for e-ELCA, a DH-commissioned e-learning programme for end of life care, now hosted by Health Education England, and Chair of the Topic Expert Group for the NICE Quality Standard for End of Life Care (2011). She enjoys cooking and allotment gardening for relaxation.

Bee is Visiting Professor at Oxford Brookes University and University of Worcester, and Honorary Professor at Sichuan University, China. She is Head of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Palliative Care in Oxford. As NCD, she led the Leadership Alliance for the Care of Dying People and is co-chair of the National Partnership for Palliative and End of Life Care which was responsible for publishing the ‘Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care: a national framework for local action’ in 2015.

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