Fit for Future is being led by St Margaret’s Hospice and has brought together a range of people, including leading healthcare experts, carers, national cancer charities, families, patient representatives, church leaders, politicians and the local authority. It is one of the largest community engagement programmes in the country on the issue and will provide a blueprint for better and more efficient palliative care throughout the UK.
The challenges are very real for Somerset as it has one of the biggest ageing populations in the UK. By 2033, most of the county is likely to have at least 25% of the population over 65 and it is projected that there will be as many people in their 80s as in their 20s (source ONS).
In the next 15 years, it is predicted that, without reform to the way we do things, around 40% of the population will die alone without adequate care and support.
The review has identified five key areas for action: finance and funding; rising demand; maintaining quality; fractured services; accessibility and equity of care and maintaining and growing the care community. Maintaining and developing the workforce, including volunteers, is also high on the agenda.
It has also already resulted in a number of pilot projects, taking the first steps towards addressing some of these challenges. These include an initiative to develop an ‘end of life’ volunteer workforce in the county and providing expert training to micro providers who deliver personal care, domestic support and companionship directly to those who need it.
St Margaret’s Chief Executive Ann Lee said: “This has been a very thorough exercise designed to involve and engage with the whole community. A growing elderly population with increasingly complex medical needs means we just physically won’t have the resources required to accommodate this increased demand. So, we have to look at ways we can reach and care for more people, using technology and partnership working, to develop suitable care models.
“As a charity we heavily rely on the generosity of our local community and loyal supporters, however the ever-increasing cost of care is overtaking our levels of charitable income. This is exacerbated by the risk of reduced funding, which is a pattern that is happening across the country. This consultation has helped us identify where there are gaps in the provision of care and where we can improve the way we work with the network, from GPs and hospitals through to families and carers.”
Recommendations from the consultation will now go to the Board of Trustees and new care models that can be rolled out nationally are expected to be piloted next Spring.