Changing the way we think about palliative care

Marie Curie Nurses

Many people with different terminal illnesses miss out on palliative care because there’s limited understanding of how it can help improve the quality of life for the individual and their family, at any point of their illness.

Our new report, Triggers for palliative care, examines the research into a range of non-cancer diagnoses in the context of how palliative care could improve a person’s quality of life and what the triggers are for recognising that care needs to be provided.

Palliative care is a speciality born from care for people with terminal cancer. The links between cancer specialists , doctors and nurses, are very good. Overwhelmingly these specialists understand what palliative care can offer their patients. Often this will be provided alongside their continued efforts to treat the cancer. They know that it can provide relief from pain, symptom control and most importantly support with psychological and emotional needs.

Unfortunately many of the links between specialists treating people with other terminal illnesses are not as good.  We believe that a lot can be done to strengthen these links and the understanding of what palliative care offers. Some things are as simple as ensuring that clinical specialists are aware of who their palliative colleagues are and how to contact them.

Together with the Marie Curie Medical Director and Nurse Director I have written to all hospital Medical Directors and Nurse Directors asking them to take three simple actions which would have an immediate impact on the care and support that people with a wide range of terminal illnesses receive. These are to:

  • Ensure your staff are aware of their local palliative care teams.
  • Provide information about palliative care to your staff, patients and their families. We have prepared an information sheet to help with this.
  • Increase access to palliative care for anyone who needs it, including people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and acute strokes.

It’s equally important that people with a non-cancer terminal illness understand what palliative care can do for them.  We need to dispel the stigma that receiving palliative care is in some way an acceptance of failure. Our new information and support service can help people understand just what palliative care is and how it can help.

Getting the full range of care available from specialists in their field is a central part of looking after someone with a complex and serious diagnosis. Palliative care can be a very important part of this package of care. It offers the chance for improved quality of life and, as the research tells, us can prolong life.

Palliative care can add time to life and life to time.

You can help us as well. By signing up online you can write to your local MP and ask them to make care for people with a terminal illness a priority.