New report outlines next steps to make sure care works for all communities

By Dr Ian Gittens
Senior Project Manager (Diversity)

Dr Ian Gittens

When Nafeesa Rafiq's mother Maqsood had bile duct cancer, Nafeesa was concerned that she was not getting the care she needed in hospital. She also knew that, as her mother’s condition was so serious, the family needed more support.

Maqsood was admitted to the Marie Curie Hospice, Bradford in summer 2013 for the final weeks of her life.

“The hospice looked at different options for my mother, which hadn’t been mentioned to us before,” says Nafeesa. “They were not able to cure the illness, but they helped manage symptoms. The fact that nurses were there all the time at the hospice made things easier for me and my family. They weren’t able to prolong my mother’s life, but they cared.”

Nafeesa was also grateful that her mother’s care accommodated the family’s cultural and religious needs: “There was an area for prayer, separate rooms and the kitchen had halal options available. The family could stay 24/7 and there was always someone from the family there. This meant there was never an issue communicating with my mother.”

Right care at the right time

Like Maqsood, everyone deserves care that works for them and their families at the end of their lives. But if healthcare providers fail to understand the needs of the people and communities they serve, everyone getting the right care at the right time becomes an unlikely prospect.

Over the next few decades, the UK's population will change dramatically. To avoid being left behind as the communities around them evolve, health and social care commissioners and providers should already be exploring and adapting to those changes.

At Marie Curie Cancer Care, we're particularly concerned that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are already not getting the care they want at the end of their lives.

Urgent issue

Today (15 January), we are launching a report on the next steps we believe health and social care commissioners and providers need to take to address this situation.

Tackling this issue cannot wait. Long-term demographic changes mean that the problem may get worse in the years ahead if providers don't change their approach. Over the next few years, more and more people requiring care at the end of their lives will be from BAME backgrounds and communities.

Our report offers several recommendations and also sets out what Marie Curie is doing to address these challenges in the care we provide ourselves.

Recommendations for commissioners and providers include:

  • ensuring demand for services is explored, understood and incorporated into the design of services

  • reviewing how staff are trained, to ensure people have the skills and confidence to deliver services to people from all cultural backgrounds

  • producing tailored information on services for different communities to make sure they know what services are available to them and that they will meet their needs

Clear guidance

We want NHS England to take a lead on this issue, by giving clear guidance to service commissioners and others about how to take the needs of different groups of people and communities into account.

Ultimately, what needs to be done is simple: health and social care commissioners and providers must work more closely with local communities to make sure they understand their needs. Only by doing that can they deliver the right care to the people who need it.