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Only half of clinicians feel patients’ end-of-life needs are met

110,000 people needing palliative care do not receive it

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 08 April 2015

Only around half of clinicians feel that patients with a terminal illness have their needs met adequately, according to a survey published today. 

A survey commissioned by Marie Curie, the charity for people living with terminal illnesses, of 500 clinical professionals across the UK (including GPs) showed the profession was worried about the quality of care and fair access.

The new Ipsos MORI online survey explored perceptions among a sample of 500 clinical professionals including GPs, hospital based physicians, oncology and specialist nurses, anaesthetists, and specialists from hospice and palliative medicine.

It looked at the standards and quality of care that they encountered for people with terminal illnesses.

Almost half (47%) of respondents did not agree that the needs of patients were adequately met overall, and far fewer said the same was true for those using out-of-hours social care (15%) or in A&E (15%).  

Only a third of respondents (31%) said that out-of-hours medical care met peoples’ needs adequately, while 45% agreed the same was true for hospital in-patients.

A larger proportion said that people receiving care in their own homes or in hospices had their needs met – 53% and 91% respectively – agreed that those needs were adequately met.

When asked which issues were a barrier to meeting the needs of terminally ill people, around two thirds (65%) of clinicians said lack of coordination between teams delivering care, 65% said insufficient funding for services and 67% cited time and poor staff.

Clinicians were asked what needed to happen to improve the quality of care for those with a terminal illness and the majority (79%) said improved co-ordination of care between health and social care, while 69% proposed better planning of health services for people with terminal illnesses and 68% said better communication between clinicians and patients and their families.

The charity also published today its commissioned report Equity in the Provision of Palliative Care in the UK: Review of Evidence, produced by the London School of Economics.

The researchers analysed existing evidence including the views of carers in a recent survey of 1,067 carers in the UK.

That survey showed that 68% of carers felt that people with terminal illnesses did not get all the care and support that they needed.

Overall, the researchers estimated that there are 111,700 people a year in the UK who would benefit from palliative care but are not currently receiving it.

The researchers said considerable under-provision and service gaps currently existed and that these would grow as the UK population aged.

Dr Jane Collins, chief executive of Marie Curie, said: “It is undeniable that many people do not get the care and support they need and everyone from medical professionals, researchers, policy-makers and those affected by terminal illness understand this.

“Our new report Changing the Conversation calls for a national conversation about what sort of care and support people with a terminal illness, and their families, should get now and in the future to ensure they are able to live well for as long as possible in the place of their choice – usually their own homes.”

Dr Bee Wee, national clinical director for end-of-life care at NHS England, said: “The NHS is committed to ensuring that all patients get the support and services they need towards the end of life.”

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