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Charities show support for Access to Palliative Care Bill

02 February 2016

A coalition of seven charities have voiced their support of Baroness Finlay's Bill, which seeks to ensure that everyone in the UK is able to access high quality palliative and end of life care when they need it.

The heads of seven charities – Cicely Saunders International, Hospice UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, The Motor Neurone Disease Association, The National Council for Palliative Care and Sue Ryder – have written an open letter, saying that Access to Palliative Care Bill "would help to end the current inconsistency and bring high quality end of life care to all of us when we need it."

The private member's bill, which reaches the committee stage in the House of Lords today, was introduced by Baroness Ilora Finlay of Llandaff, a specialist in palliative medicine and chair of the National Council for Palliative Care.

The Bill aims to improve access to palliative care by placing a duty on clinical commissioning groups to commission sufficient palliative care services for all people with such needs in their local area.

It would also compel Health Education England to require health and social care providers to ensure that healthcare professionals receive relevant training on pain control, communication, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and how to support families and carers.

In the letter published today, the charities explain: "Numerous reports have highlighted that people’s quality and experience of care at the end of life is unacceptably inconsistent. Good end of life care is person-centred and compassionate, helping people to live well until they die. It also makes economic sense, avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions.

"Ensuring access to palliative care for those who need it is an essential part of the solution. This is why Baroness Finlay has introduced the Access to Palliative Care Bill. It would help to ensure that the high quality care provided by hospices, specialist palliative care teams and in many parts of community care is available to everyone approaching the end of life."

Jonathan Ellis, director of policy and advocacy at Hospice UK, explained why the charity supports the aims of the Bill:

"We support the aims of this Bill, which lays out several urgently-needed key measures to help tackle inconsistencies in palliative care service provision and ensure that high quality care is available to everyone who needs it.

"We particularly welcome the Bill’s call for mandatory training for all healthcare professionals involved in care for dying people and their families. Many hospices are already delivering training to health and social care staff to transform care for dying people. However we need to make sure that staff in all settings are properly trained to deliver the best possible care. 

"Everyone who is dying must be able to access high quality palliative care, when they need it and wherever they are supported."

While the Bill has received support from the sector, and among peers who debated the proposed legislation in October, it is not backed by the government.

More information about the Access to Palliative Care Bill is available on the UK parliament website.

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