End of life care: a huge challenge for our next Government

by Scott Sinclair
Policy and Public Affairs Manager, England

Scott Sinclair, Policy and Public Affairs Manager

Campaigning for the General Election is now entering its final stages and last week the UK’s major political parties published their manifestos. The three largest parties from the last Parliament – the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats – all made pledges to improve care for people with a terminal illness, as did the Greens and UKIP.

This widespread acknowledgement that more needs to be done to ensure that people affected by terminal illness get the care and support they need is very welcome. However, the scale of the challenge that the next Government will face is huge.

Already in the UK an estimated 100,000 people per year don’t get the care and support they need when they are terminally ill and around 50% of people die in hospital despite less than 5% of us saying that is the place we would want to be at the end of our lives. Research that Marie Curie has commissioned from the London School of Economics shows that many of the people who miss out are those with a non-Cancer diagnosis, people over the age of 85, or people without a spouse or partner.

By 2040 we know that about 100,000 more people will be dying per year, many of whom will have multiple long-term conditions and complex healthcare needs. This means if we don’t act now then more people will die without access to the care and support they need and the number of people dying in hospital will probably go up rather than down.

This is why we've launched our campaign on ‘Changing the Conversation’. This means changing the conversations that take place between people, health and social care professionals, commissioners of services, and service providers. But it’s also about changing the conversation with the Government and making sure that we do more now to ensure that all of us can get the kind of care we need later.

While we welcome the pledges from the UK’s leading political parties, whoever forms the new Government will need to take the care and support needs of our ageing population seriously and should:

  • Invest in community based care and support for people affected by terminal illness;

  • Reduce the waits for social care, which can stretch beyond 30 days; and

  • Provide comprehensive and regular training for GPs and District Nurses, who see many people with a terminal illness each year.

We will be making the case as to newly elected MPs and officials soon as the dust from the General Election settles. The care and support of people affected by terminal illness must be a top priority for our society.

We would love to hear your thoughts on these issues. Take a look at our campaign page to see how you can get involved in helping Marie Curie provide a better life for people and their families living with a terminal illness – whatever that illness is.