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Not enough staff to support pain management at home, survey says

Author: Leila Hawkins
16 May 2017

Only half of British healthcare professionals say there is enough staff to support the pain management needs of people dying at home, according to a study by Hospice UK and the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC).

The two charities surveyed 370 healthcare professionals across England who support people dying at home, including community nurse specialists, hospice service leads and GPs.

Just 51 per cent said staffing levels were sufficient to meet needs, while more than a third (35 per cent) said they were not.

Many healthcare professionals supporting dying people said they were over-stretched, with one in five of those surveyed (20 per cent) describing their caseload as “not manageable”.

Nearly a third (29 per cent) described the availability of end of life care training in their area as either “requiring improvement” or “inadequate”.

A quarter (25 per cent) said they did not have 24/7 telephone end of life care advice for people at the end of life, their families and carers.

Many people want the choice to be able to stay at home at the end of their lives, something that is supported by the Government and NHS England policy. However, pain management for people being cared for at home lags far behind that of other care settings, including hospice inpatient units, care homes and hospitals.

The report sets out new guidance for service providers and Clinical Commissioning Groups to help improve pain management. It reinforces existing policy guidelines on end of life care such as the NICE quality standard and the Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care framework. 

Commenting on the findings, Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK said:

“Inadequate pain management for dying people being cared for at home due to issues such as staff shortages is unacceptable. People approaching the end of life should not be forced to make a trade-off between staying at home, where they would prefer to be, or going into hospital for effective pain relief.”  

“We hope this research will serve as a wake-up call for commissioners and providers to take concerted action to tackle the underlying issues depriving dying people of effective pain management at home.”

Claire Henry, Chief Executive of the National Council for Palliative Care, said:

“We know both that people’s top priority for their end of life care is being pain free, and that most people would choose be at home when they die. So it’s essential to make sure people dying at home have round the clock access to effective pain relief. 

“We need new approaches to achieve this, including giving training and support to carers so they can give injections if that’s wanted. Everyone has a right to good end of life care; this issue needs to be addressed promptly and successfully.”

For more information read Hospice UK and the NCPC’s report ‘No painful compromise’

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