Achieving shared ambitions for end of life care

The National Director at Hospice UK explains how hospices are ready to play their role in delivering the very best end of life care: 

We may be leading the world in terms of services, systems and availability of pain killers at the end of life according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, but a crucial challenge remains: how do we deliver consistently compassionate and effective support for dying people and their families in all settings?

Excellent end of life care should be widely available, and a recent survey of bereaved relatives by the National Audit Office suggested that most people’s experience of that care is positive. However, as we have seen with the shocking cases highlighted by the recent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report, the system can still fail to meet patients’ needs, and in some cases to the point of downright neglect.

Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care, a new national framework for local action devised by a wide group of statutory bodies, charities and groups representing patients and professionals – including NHS England and Hospice UK – sets out clearly the actions that local health, social care and community leaders need to take to ensure that everyone has access to the best care possible when they are facing death.

As one of the NHS England’s Strategic Partners, Hospice UK is firmly committed to helping to achieve the vision set out in the Ambitions framework.

We are working closely with NHS England to improve commissioning arrangements between hospices and Clinical Commissioning Groups, helping enhance data collection for end of life care and also collaborating to help shape a fairer funding system for palliative care.

We are also collaborating with hospices to share, expand and replicate their innovative approaches to care.

Hospices are involved in increasingly-effective partnerships with the NHS locally to help more people achieve their wishes and preferences at the end of life, and ensure that people get the right care at the right time, wherever they might be – whether in hospital, at home or in a hospice.

The holistic nature of hospice care encompasses all of a person’s needs, from specialist medical care to welfare rights and befriending support. This creates valuable connections between hospices and a wide range of individuals and organisations in their local communities, including volunteers, therapists, religious leaders, care homes and local authorities. This is captured in the “Connecting Care” theme of our annual awareness raising campaign – Hospice Care Week – which takes place this week.

Hospices across the UK are working to put the vision of the Ambitions framework into practice and leading initiatives to improve end of life care in their local communities. For example, The Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow is leading a Widening Access programme, aimed at extending its services to more people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities – helping to ensure that every person gets fair access to care.

Hospices are also leading moves to co-ordinate care. SinglePoint is a service hosted by St Helena Hospice, Colchester, which enhances coordination and continuity of care for people in their last year of life. Collaboration between all agencies involved in end of life care and within communities is critical to achieving lasting improvements in the delivery of end of life care.

Caring for the UK’s growing ageing population presents major challenges for the NHS – so expanding care options beyond hospital will be hugely important too, and hospices play an important part in this.

Dying is inevitable for us all, and hospices stand ready to work with the NHS locally and nationally to deliver on the Ambitions vision, and ensure that excellent care at the end of life is also a certainty.

Dr Ros Taylor

Dr Ros Taylor, MBE, is National Director for Hospice Care at Hospice UK the national charity for hospice care, which represents more than 200 hospice care organisations across the country.

Dr Taylor joined Hospice UK as National Director for Hospice Care in October 2014 and prior to that was a Trustee at the charity. Her role involves her driving the clinical agenda for hospice care at a national strategic level and promoting and supporting excellence in the end of life care sector.

Before working at Hospice UK she was Director of The Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, which she joined in 1996.

Dr Taylor has more than 20 years’ experience working in palliative care, including in community, hospital and hospice settings.

She has a special interest in medical education, medical humanities and ‘whole person care’ and has lectured widely, both nationally and internationally.