How can we get Fast Track care back on track?
Widespread delays in getting Fast Track care in place are leading to a significant number of people across England being delayed in hospital and potentially even dying there.
Julie’s father Paul had already been in hospital for two months before he was told his stomach pains were actually terminal cancer. But it took another month for Paul to be released from hospital.
“All my dad wanted was to die at home where he felt comfortable and could be with the people he loved,” says Julie. “But it was a real struggle to get him out of the hospital. He just felt so isolated and alone there with no support at all. He went into depression which I wouldn’t wish on anyone but especially a person having to deal with being terminally ill.”
This isn’t supposed to happen. A system exists in England to allow seriously ill or dying patients in England to leave hospital quickly when they no longer need to be there.
Known as Fast Track Continuing Healthcare, this service is crucial to making sure that people can get the care they need outside of hospital at the end of their lives. It is meant to ensure that people who are thought to be close to the end of their lives can have an urgent care package paid for and in place as soon as possible.
Our new report, Making Every Moment Count, takes a close look at the Fast Track system of care and how well it’s working for people living with a terminal illness and their families.
The NHS is very clear that once a doctor, nurse or other health professional applies a person for Fast Track care, the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) needs to have care in place for that person within 48 hours to get them out of hospital.
Unfortunately, our report found that widespread delays in getting Fast Track care in place are leading to a significant number of people across England being delayed in hospital and potentially even dying there.
When we asked CCGs, we found that just a third of them were getting Fast Track care in place within two days, and another third were experiencing delays of over a week.
These delays in Fast Track care are completely unacceptable. They leave dying people and their loved ones stranded in hospital and uncertain of when they will be able to go home, adding stress and uncertainty to a time that is already traumatic.
Continuing Healthcare challenges
Our report also found that a significant number of CCGs simply aren’t gathering enough information on Fast Track Continuing Healthcare for us to have a good idea of why and how these delays are happening. Without that knowledge, putting a stop to delays will be much more challenging.
Marie Curie will be pushing for NHS England and other organisations to work to find out why these delays are happening and fix the problems that are causing them.