Hospices helping UK hit index’s top spot

THE UK has ranked top in a Quality of Death Index published by the Economist Intelligence Unit – with Woking & Sam Beare Hospices helping to make the country’s healthcare a world leader.

The index is a measure of the quality of palliative care provided in 80 countries across the globe. And it put the UK top of the pile due to its comprehensive national policies, strong hospice movement, the extensive integration of palliative care into the NHS, and deep community engagement on the issue.

Commenting on the new Index, Chief Executive of Woking & Sam Beare Hospices Nigel Harding said that he and his team are proud to have played their part.

He added: “We have also helped to share our expertise internationally through our longstanding relationship with Maastricht University (in The Netherlands) and our support of their GPs in training who join the hospices for six-week secondments, gaining first-hand experience of the management of palliative care. We are looking at other international relationships.”

However, the index also highlights that there is still room for improvement in the UK. It cites the report published by the health ombudsman earlier this year that identified issues for concern, such as poor symptom control, poor communication and planning, inadequate out-of-hours services for dying people, and delays in diagnosis and referrals for treatment.

Mr Harding has suggested an overhaul in partner relationships. He explained: “Although there is much good practise in the UK, there is still a lot more to do and we need all patients who need it to have access to specialist palliative care and for everyone to join in the conversation about discussing and planning for their end of life care.

“This means designing a whole system approach with healthcare partners to enable a 24/7, seven-day-a-week service, engagement with our communities and appropriate funding streams.

“At present our hospices only receive about 20 per cent funding from the NHS, and it is therefore our communities who play such an important part in driving forward our work.

“As highlighted in the health ombudsman report published earlier this year, there are still failings in end of life care in other settings and we are working incredibly hard with, for example, Ashford & St Peter’s Hospitals to reduce the high numbers of
people dying in hospital, who would be much better supported in other settings, including in our hospices or their own homes supported by our specialist doctors, nurses and therapists.

“Not only would this provide more choice for dying people about where they spend their final days, it would also free up many
hospital beds, at a time when the NHS is facing huge pressure.”

Linked to this work, in the next few weeks hospices chiefs plan to start work on building a new facility in Goldsworth Park.

“As a charity, all this great work and patient care can’t be done without the support of the local community,” added Mr Harding. “We hope the success of the UK in this index demonstrates to everyone just how important every donation is.”

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