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End-of-life care shortage

9th January 2013

Palliative care experts have warned there is a shortage of specialist end-of-life care in England.

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A report produced by doctors and nurses involved in the care of people dying from conditions such as cancer, dementia or heart or liver failure suggests many patients are suffering unnecessarily because they are not getting the support they need.

The document, produced by a number of organisations including the Association of Palliative Medicine and Marie Curie Cancer Care, also indicates that palliative care can be cost effective because it keeps terminally-ill patients out of hospitals.

Figures suggest that up to 170,000 people a year were currently receiving specialist end-of-life care but it is feared as many as 350,000 people would benefit from specialist care.

Dr David Brooks, vice-president of the Association of Palliative Medicine, said: “There is a shortfall in services that needs to be addressed. Palliative care has the ability to save the NHS money and improve the care of patients.”

The report follows criticism of the Liverpool Care Pathway, with suggestions that the regime which allows doctors to withdraw treatment in the last days of life, was being misused.

A review into how the system was working has been delayed, though the government is expected to announce details in the near future.

The Department of Health said that the gap between need and provision of palliative care, as identified in the independent Palliative Care Funding Review report of 2011, was being addressed with a new per-patient funding system for palliative care due to be in place in 2015.

 

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