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New inquiry into palliative and end of life care announced

06 November 2014

The Health Select Committee is to examine why so many people die in hospital, when very few people would want to, and will review distinctions between 'palliative' and 'end of life' care as part of a new inquiry into palliative and end of life care for adults – including the frail elderly – and children and young people.

The Committee will examine the way that health and social care services, and the voluntary and community sector, support people who are likely to die within 12 months, what opportunities exist for better integration and for improving care quality, and the experience of those caring for people at the end of life.

MPs will also review the definitions of, and distinctions between, 'palliative' and 'end of life' care to examine how to provide more effective targeting of resources and management of interventions necessary to bring about service change.

Other areas the Committee plans to examine include:
  • the impact on end of life care in hospitals following the withdrawal of the Liverpool Care Pathway
  • how geography and demographic characteristics affect access to, and quality of, 24/7 specialist palliative and end of life care
  • what changes may be needed in staff numbers, skills and training to enable generalist health and social care staff to better support people at the end of life
  • what research is currently being carried out into palliative and end of life care.

The Committee is inviting written evidence, which can be submitted until 12 noon on 15 December 2014.

Responding to the announcement, Jonathan Ellis, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Hospice UK, said: "We are pleased this new inquiry has been established. It is much needed, particularly amid widespread concerns about how our society cares for increasing numbers of older people living and dying with complex needs.

"A key focus for the inquiry will be on why so many people continue to die in a hospital setting. We have recently launched a new programme to tackle this problem by providing hospice-supported alternative care options. We will be sharing our plans with the inquiry to help inspire new approaches to how care is provided for people at the end of life in future. 

"We also hope the inquiry will provide some added impetus to repeated calls from end of life care charities, including Hospice UK, for free social care for people in their last year of life. Achieving this is vital to ensure more people are cared for and die in the place of their choice.

"Finally, we are keen that the inquiry also examines issues such as the continuing poor quality of commissioning of hospice and palliative care. This is something our own research highlighted earlier this year and which also needs to be tackled if we are to radically improve how palliative and end of life care is provided."

Andrew Fletcher, Director of External Affairs at Together for Short Lives, added: "The inquiry is an important opportunity to highlight the excellent support that children’s palliative care services provide for families on a day to day basis. It is also a chance to describe the barriers faced by children and young people with life-limiting conditions, their families and those who care for them.

"Many children cannot access the palliative care they need 24 hours a day, seven days a week; services as a whole do not receive fair or sustainable statutory funding; care is often not joined-up around children and families; and transitions to adulthood often leave young people facing a cliff-edge with too many adult services neither ready or able to provide them with care which is appropriate for their age."

Full details of the inquiry's terms of reference, and how to submit evidence, is available on the Select Committee's webpages.

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