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Government Must Keep Pushing On with National Commitment on End of Life Care

Ilora, Baroness Finlay, is calling on the Government to keep moving forward with the National Commitment on End of Life Care. The National Commitment was launched in July 2016, following a consultation chaired by Claire Henry, CEO of the National Council for Palliative Care. Baroness Finlay is chair of the NCPC’s trustees.

Baroness Finlay’s call for continuing commitment to the National Commitment comes in the light of two new pieces of research, both of which raise concerns about palliative care planning.

A new paper published on Tuesday, February 28, in BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care found that the provision of palliative care across England is inconsistent and Clinical Commissioning Groups are not equipped to provide adequate services for their populations. The study, which uses a 2015 Freedom of Information request, found that only 35% of responding CCGs held information about the annual number of deaths in the communities they serve. The same paper found that 36% of responding CCGs had information about the number of people with palliative care needs in their areas.

The paper, Commissioning of specialist palliative care services in England, was written by Harriet Lancaster and Baroness Finlay, who is a Professor of Palliative Medicine. Baroness Finlay says “our research shows that there needs to be national guidelines and support for CCGs about information they need to have in order to effectively commission end of life care services. Part 4 of the National Commitment says ‘We will provide commissioners with data, tools and palliative care currencies to help identify palliative care needs in local areas and the best ways to commission services to meet those needs’ and I want to know how the Government intends to do this.”

Similarly, early analysis from the NCPC of Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) found that over half make no reference or only fleeting reference to end of life care. Only 16% embedded end of life care as a priority. 44 regions in England produced a STP that have been published online. NCPC’s initial analysis found:

• 7 (16%) gave no mention of end of life care at all
• 18 (41%) mentioned end of life care, but provided no further detail
• 13 (29%) mentioned end of life care, and provided some detail
• 6 (14%) embedded end of life care as a strategic priority

Claire Henry said “This is important new research and we join Ilora in her call for continuing progress on the National Commitment. The National Commitment says ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) should fully take into account the contribution that sustainable, efficiently designed end of life care services can make to achieving better outcomes for dying people.’ It’s time to hear how the Government is going to keep moving this forward, because our initial STP analysis suggests it is not yet a priority everywhere.”

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