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New bill proposes integrating funding for palliative care across Britain

Author: Alec Williams
11 June 2018

Alec Williams, Hospice UK’s Policy and Advocacy Officer, writes about a new bill that seeks better funding for all providers of palliative care, including carers.

Bambos Charalambous, MP for Enfield and Southgate, recently introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill ‘Terminal Illness (Provision of Palliative Care and Support for Carers)’ in Parliament. The Bill was inspired by Bambos’ recent visit to North London Hospice where he heard an inspirational speech by Joy, a patient.

Bambos met with Joy and others from North London Hospice before the reading and invited them to watch him deliver his speech to the House of Commons.

Bambos has clearly been struck not only by the experiences of Joy and others at North London Hospice, but also at the pressing need for greater recognition and improvements across end of life and palliative care as our population grows older and we all live longer.

He spoke of his worries around the current provision of palliative care as being ‘patchy at best’ and identified palliative care funding’s dependency on local clinical commissioning groups as the problem. He was shocked to find that CCG contributions to local hospices’ costs range as widely as 1 per cent to 50 per cent from region to region.

In response, Bambos’ Bill seeks to provide properly funded nationwide palliative care provision that is integrated with local authorities, community care providers and local NHS providers, in order to provide a more comprehensive and coherent way of addressing palliative care. This would allow for a system that provides equal access to community palliative care services for anyone who is terminally ill; better co-operation between hospices, agencies and NHS services to join up the currently fragmented provision; and better funding for district and community nursing.

Palliative care is however only part of the picture, and Bambos was clear that we should not forget the role of carers. Carers face many physical and emotional challenges as they provide the essential support that their loved ones need - things like helping them get dressed, providing emotional support or just helping them move about.

Even where there is end of life care, there is very little that is out of hours, so carers rarely get breaks at night time or at weekends and may become isolated, miss out on significant employment opportunities or face financial hardship. The Bill seeks to provide a carer’s allowance in line with jobseeker’s allowance, a right to paid leave and support from a more carer-friendly NHS, for which Hospice UK has been campaigning for some time.

As Bambos pointed out, in all probability, when the Bill receives its Second Reading, Joy will no longer be with us. In her words: “the hospice can help us live with a better quality of life. It is about living not just about dying, until we are ready and then it will be a safe place to die.”

Bambos’ Bill has provided an important platform to debate these issues and we must now all ensure  that Joy and everyone needing end of life care is able to access it through a better and fairer system.

The Bill will receive its second reading on Friday 23 November.

Carers’ Week starts today and runs till June 17.

See more articles in Policy

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