UK: best in the world on palliative care?

Does the UK really offer the best care in the world for people at the end of their lives?

That’s the headline today after the release of a new report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, which looks at the quality of palliative care in 80 countries around the world.

It cites the UK’s strengths as comprehensive national policies, integration of palliative care in the NHS and a strong hospice movement.

Great care and support

We as a country should be very proud of these achievements. Hundreds of thousands of people each year in the UK get great care and support at the end of their lives and that’s a testament to the talented, committed people working in the sector, like our own Marie Curie Nurses and Hospices.

So if this is the case, why have we at Marie Curie been calling for a change in the conversation about terminal illness? What’s the problem?

Struggle to provide adequate care

In short, regardless of where the UK sits on a global ranking, too many people still do not get the care they need at the end of their lives.

The Economist Intelligence Unit report acknowledges this, saying “even top-ranked nations currently struggle to provide adequate palliative care services for every citizen”.

This fits with what we see in our own work and the stories we hear from people with a terminal illness and their families every day.

For example, a survey we carried out earlier in the year highlighted that seven out of 10 carers say people with a terminal illness in the UK don’t get the care and support they need.

Far from being comprehensive, the availability and quality of palliative care are patchy, based on a range of factors, such as the illness the person has and where they live in the country.

Greater and more complex needs

We also face the challenge of an ageing population, who are likely to have greater and more complex needs for care over the coming years.

We need to look at these findings in context. If we adopt a ‘business as usual’ approach following this report, then we will only see more cases of vulnerable people failing to get the care they need. Our collective ambition must be to ensure better access to palliative care for everyone who needs it.

But what do you think?

We’d like to hear your experiences of palliative care in the UK, both good and bad. Is the UK really best in class? And if it is, is that good enough?