Meet Catherine Millington-Sanders, the new clinical lead for our partnership with the Royal College of GPs

In 2013, Marie Curie entered into a three-year partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to improve end of life care provided to patients by GPs. Now in its second year, the partnership has a number of priorities, including helping to educate the workforce.  A series of free practical masterclasses for GPs and nurses are taking place across the UK from now through to March. In January 2015, Catherine Millington-Sanders took over from Peter Nightingale as RCGP Clinical Champion – End of Life Care. We asked her a few questions. Catherine Millington-Sanders, clinical lead for End of Life Care Why did you want to become the next end of life care lead? As well as supporting patients to live well and die well, working with RCGP and Marie Curie is an excellent opportunity to help improve GPs’ confidence, skills and knowledge providing end of life care. This role also offers the opportunity to work with fellow professionals, the public and politicians to raise awareness of the importance of care in the last years of life. Why is end of life care such a high priority for RCGP? With the UK’s ageing population, the number of deaths per year is expected to rise by 17% between 2012 and 2030[1]. So it is essential to get end of life care planning right for patients, carers, professionals and service development. As the main first point of contact for people who need end of life care, GPs are perfectly placed to deliver high-quality care to people in the last years of life. On top of this, the quality and patients’ experience of end of life care can act as a barometer for our services more generally. In our increasingly challenging financial climate, it will be crucial to help clinical commissioning groups and providers to act collaboratively to improve quality and coordination of care. What is your ‘day job’ and how will it help in this role? I am a GP, clinical commissioner and educationalist. I have also worked as a specialty doctor in palliative medicine for seven years. I am not only passionate about supporting patients, carers and families through the last years of life but I am also committed to working with the RCGP and Marie Curie to help support GPs deliver end of life care. What do you think the most important priorities are for people living with a terminal illness, and their families? When someone is ill and dying, they or their carer should not have to think about how to get the best care for them in the last few months and weeks of their lives. We want to ensure that at this most difficult time for patients and their families, we give them seamless, high-quality care so they can concentrate on the precious time they have left together. Recently, the Pan-London End of Life Alliance Lay Representatives Board published a statement that I believe offers an excellent framework to define what good end of life care looks like for patients and their carers.

  • I am actively engaged in holistic care-planning to maximise my quality of life

  • I am supported and cared for by professionals with compassion, care, commitment, competence, courage, good communication and listening skills.

  • My voice and that of my carer is heard, our individual needs and preferences respected and acted on sensitively, ensuring a high quality experience of care

  • I receive seamless continuity of care and all organisations work together and in partnership.

  • I only need to communicate information once and everyone has access to the most up to date and accurate information about me.

Read more about the Pan-London End of Life Alliance What do you do in your spare time?   I enjoy dancing, singing (often cheerfully to myself in the car), cooking new recipes for trusting friends, travelling to places with beautiful views and, most of all, sharing important times and memories with my family and friends.