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End of life care must “radically improve”

Posted by: Comms 1 March 2017

Pancreatic Cancer UK is today calling for vast improvement of end of life care after a report published in the BMJ’s Supportive and Palliative Care journal discovered huge inconsistencies in this vital support across England (1).

The charity is calling for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to make the right services available to ensure patients are guaranteed high quality care at the end of life, wherever they live. Pancreatic Cancer UK is also urging healthcare professionals supporting people with pancreatic cancer to talk to their patients at an early stage about their wishes for their final weeks and days to ensure a support plan is in place to allow them to have a good death.

Good end of life care should include symptom and pain control, and attention to psychological and emotional needs towards the end of life, both for the patient themselves and their family. It can mean that people have the option to die at home or in a hospice, rather than in hospital. Having an end of life care plan in place at an early stage is particularly vital for people with pancreatic cancer, because 80 per cent of patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage, and those patients will on average live for just two to six months.

Anna Jewell, Director of Operations at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “Good end of life care can make the world of difference to people with pancreatic cancer and their families, but as today’s report shows, tragically all too often the right support is simply not provided. We regularly hear from families that they were left confused about what support was available, that vital conversations about end of life care did not happen soon enough, and that ultimately their loved one was not supported to have the death that was right for them.

“The vast majority of people with pancreatic cancer have precious little time, and that should be spent with their loved ones and saying their goodbyes, rather than struggling to organise end of life care. This support must radically improve and become far more person-centred, looking after patients’ and families’ psychological and emotional needs. We urgently need CCGs to ensure that all patients are being supported in the right way at the end of their lives. We also need healthcare professionals to raise these issues at an early stage with their patients, to make plans for their final weeks and days at the right time.”

For more information about pancreatic cancer, visit www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/facts

References:

  1. Harriet Lancaster, Ilora Finlay and colleagues, Commissioning of specialist palliative care services in England', published online in BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care journal, 28 February 2017.