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Will new ambulance support bring better palliative care?

Author: Lucy Wyndham
21 September 2017

Lucy Wyndham is the content manager of a funeral information and advice site, offering support on a range of topics from coping with grief to getting help with funeral costs. Here she writes about how training ambulance staff in specialist palliative care can reduce unnecessary hospital admissions.

Excellent end of life care does not just occur in the hospital or hospice; in fact, some of the best care happens at home. With this in mind, the need for specialist palliative care from the ambulance staff itself is more apparent than ever. A specialist ambulance service in the North East aims to provide higher quality care for terminally ill patients by early next year.

The Macmillan Supportive, Palliative and End of Life Services is the first of its kind in the north, and is scheduled to launch at the beginning of 2018. Created through a new partnership between the Macmillan Cancer Support and the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, the Supportive’s goals are to better patient care and decrease unnecessary admissions to the hospital.

Need for palliative care in the UK

According to the World Health Organization, most people in need of palliative care are in their own homes. However, a recent study found that while only 1 per cent of people with cancer in the UK would like to die in the hospital, as many as 38 per cent currently actually do. Furthermore, 64 per cent of people with cancer in the UK report wishing to die at home with the right support; only 30 per cent currently do.

The new Supportive is created with these statistics in mind. Patients who currently call 999 or NHS 111 receive an ambulance, and more often than not will be sent to an emergency department, regardless of the patient’s wishes. Providing palliative care expertise to the ambulance service itself will enable medical staff to provide an increased level of care to those critically ill.

Three new roles to increase quality of care

To this end, the Trust has invested more than £350,000 annually over the next three years to hire three new roles: a nurse facilitator, an engagement officer, and admin support. This new team will work with the ambulance staff, training them in specialist skills to support terminally ill patients and individuals around the patients. The team will also work with healthcare and social care providers to help make sure patients’ end of life wishes will be respected throughout the system.

Grieving is an inevitable part of the process

While medical experts strive to do their best to facilitate a comfortable atmosphere, no-one can escape the inevitable when it comes to terminally ill patients. This also means that loved ones will have to face the hardship of losing their close one, however, there are various helpful ways to alleviate the grieving process, such as reminiscing and practicing thankfulness for the shared memories.   

Increasing the training and coordination between members of the health care system will increase the quality of life for patients and their families. This will be a welcome development at a critical juncture in the lives of patients and family members.

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