How can we improve access to palliative care for all who need it in Wales?

About three-quarters of people who die each year in Wales will need some form of palliative care. However, which condition a person has can affect how likely they are to get the care and support they need when they need it. 

This may be because they have an uncertain prognosis when compared to, for example, someone with terminal cancer, who is likely to experience a steady period of decline towards the end of life. This means it is often clearer when a more palliative than curative approach to care is appropriate for them.

Marie Curie’s new report Triggers for palliative care highlights the different barriers to care that affect people with terminal conditions such as heart failure and dementia, as well as the ‘triggers’ which help to indicate that a palliative approach to care could be best. It also considers the needs of people with conditions that typically aren’t considered terminal but are likely to benefit from palliative care throughout their illness, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and acute stroke.

What this means for Wales

Our Implications for Wales report looks at how prevalent these conditions are in Wales and the current strategies in place to ensure that high quality palliative and end of life care is available for them. The Welsh Government’s End of Life Care Delivery Plan for 2013-16 and subsequent annual reports show progress is being made, but there is still much work to be done if Wales is going to achieve its vision of access to high quality care for everyone who needs it, regardless of their underlying condition.

Action is needed now to make this a reality. We know that in the years to come there will be an increase in the number of people living with terminal illness, and they will often have multiple complex conditions. Gathering strong national data about levels of need will be important for planning services now and into the future. It is encouraging that in Wales the adoption of prudent healthcare is providing an opportunity for re-thinking care for people approaching the end of their lives and end of life care has been made a national priority area for general practice.

Help us campaign for change

Still, too many people miss out on palliative care because their needs are not properly understood or acted on. This is why Marie Curie is recommending that all healthcare professionals involved in the care of a person with a terminal illness undertake palliative care training as part of their continuing professional development.

Visit our sign up page to write to your local MP and ask them to make care for people with a terminal illness a priority.