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End of Life Care to Become a Legal Right

The UK Government has announced that providing end-of-life care will, for the first time, be an explicit legal requirement for health commissioners throughout England.

The news follows months of campaigning work from end-of-life care charities, including Marie Curie, Sue Ryder, Together for Short Lives and Alzheimer’s Society, calling for changes to be made to the Health and Care Bill to ensure palliative care is properly recognised and commissioned by Integrated Care Boards.

End-of-life charities have welcomed the news, saying it is a key milestone in end-of-life care.

One of the charities, Marie Curie, has released new data alongside the announcement showing that around 215,000 people a year currently miss out on end-of-life care and without intervention this could rise to 300,000 in under 20 years.

The call for this change has been spearheaded by Baroness Ilora Finlay. The change in law is set to be cemented through a Government backed amendment to the Health and Care Bill this week in the House of Lords.

Baroness Ilora Finlay of Llandaff said, ‘This change is incredibly important. For the first time, the NHS will be required to make sure that there are services to meet the palliative care needs of everyone for whom they have responsibility in an area. People need help early, when they need it, seven days a week – disease does not respect the clock or the calendar.’

The news comes following months of work alongside fellow end of life charities, including Marie Curie, Sue Ryder, Together for Short Lives and Alzheimer’s Society, calling for changes to be made to the Health and Care Bill to ensure palliative care is properly recognised and commissioned by Integrated Care Boards.

Craig Duncan, Hospice UK interim CEO said: “The pandemic has shown us that how we die, where, and with what support is of the highest importance. It is absolutely right that palliative care services are put on the same footing as other areas of healthcare, such as maternity and dental services, and we warmly welcome the Government’s amendment to the Health and Care Bill to do just that in England.

“Hospices provide world class care to hundreds of thousands of dying people every year, but the way their services are commissioned and funded has remained fragile and complex for many years.

“That means that 1 in 4 people who could benefit are still missing out on the high quality care they should expect as they die. Those people will disproportionately be from groups including people of colour, LGBT+ communities and people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s an injustice.

“This new amendment is a fantastic step forward in changing that situation, by ensuring for the first time that those who lead our healthcare system are legally required to consider palliative care. We look forward to continuing to work with our friends at Marie Curie, Sue Ryder, Together for Short Lives and the Alzheimer’s Society to make end of life care fair for everyone.”

Hospice UK said that that one in four people who could benefit from end-0f-life care is still missing out on the high-quality care as they die, warning that people from minority groups, LGBT+ communities and from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are disproportionately affected.

 

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