Councils and GP groups 'overlooking local end of life care needs'


Councils and GP groups across England are failing to plan for the needs of dying people, according to a new report.

The charity Hospice UK used the Freedom of Information Act to find out how well councils and NHS groups assessed the needs of dying people in their communities.

The results showed that more than a third (34%) of health and wellbeing boards, which are run by councils, do not consider the needs of dying people in their assessments of local needs.

Some 57% do not include the needs of dying adults and children in their key strategies that inform local service planning.

In addition, more than a quarter (27%) of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which control a big chunk of the NHS budget,  do not have a strategy for addressing end of life care for adults.

Most (71%) of CCGs do not have a strategy for supporting children and young people living with life-limiting illnesses.

Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of Hospice UK, said: "Local health and care needs assessments and strategies are essential building blocks for shaping vital end of life care and support services for dying people.

"However, our research shows that too many boards and CCGs are overlooking the end of life care needs of people in their communities.

"End of life care needs to become a core priority at a local level.

"A string of national reports has highlighted persistent failings in end of life care and what needs to change.

"However, there is little prospect of progress without a radical shift in approach by local health and care decision-makers."

Freedom of Information requests were sent to each of the 152 health and wellbeing boards and 209 CCGs in England.

Responses were received from 143 boards and 198 CCGs.

Scott Sinclair, head of policy and public affairs for Marie Curie in England, said: "Everybody dies and everybody should be able to expect well-planned, high quality care from the NHS while they are dying.

"That so many CCGs and health and wellbeing boards are not addressing this issue while the number of people dying each year is growing and demand for palliative care is increasing is deeply worrying.

"The whole NHS should be making changes now to cope with increased demand for palliative care in the future.

"Yet large parts of the NHS are not even thinking about dying people or how to care for them."

Professor Julia Verne, clinical lead for Public Health England's National End of Life Care Intelligence Network, said: "There are a number of existing services doing good work to make sure people end their days with options and access to high quality care, but there is room for improvement.

"Local collaboration, understanding people's needs, and ensuring local services are informed of and have access to reliable data is key if we want services to improve."

Local Government Association's community wellbeing spokeswoman Izzi Seccombe said: "Ensuring a dying person receives high-quality end-of-life care that is dignified and reflects their wishes is an absolute priority for councils, and we recognise the incredible work that hospices do in the community.

"End-of-life care is becoming increasingly significant for health and social care services, as more people now choose to die at home or in a care home than in hospital.

"Health and wellbeing boards reflect the key local issues of their population, and many have priorities that focus on prevention and management of potentially life-limiting conditions such as diabetes, cancer and dementia, as well as working with partners to improve end-of-life care."