Death and dying have never been higher on the public’s agenda than through the Covid-19 pandemic. Hospice UK is calling on the next Welsh Government to ensure that care for people experiencing death, dying and bereavement is at the top of their agenda too, by committing to reach every child and adult with a palliative care need.
Over the next Senedd term, 170,000 people, including 1,000 children, will die in Wales and the majority - around 80 per cent - could benefit from palliative care. These are difficult figures to swallow, but we can’t let that mean we shy away from dealing with a growing problem.
Reaching every person who needs palliative care is no simple task, and the challenges cover well-trodden ground:
- We need to meet increasing need as our population ages and adults and children live longer with complex conditions;
- Our services need to shift focus away from hospitals and into the community. The reality of this means doubling community palliative care and care home capacity by 2040;
- And, as a priority, tackling the existing inequalities in access to palliative care that lead to one in four people missing out. That’s the equivalent of 6,600 people in Wales each year either not accessing the benefits of palliative care early enough; not accessing the right pain relief; or not accessing services because they don’t meet their cultural, religious or identity needs.
Facing up to these challenges crucially needs to be done in the context of what matters most to people – to each individual and family and within the framework of the support available to them in their local community.
Reflecting on the experiences of dying and bereaved people, and drawing on the expertise of our clinical leaders and our hospice members, we’ve outlined four steps we think the next Welsh Government should take to reach every child and adult with a palliative care need in this changing environment.
- Deliver a national end of life care plan that takes a whole system approach and places tackling inequalities at its heart. Widening the reach of palliative care beyond the boundaries of hospice and specialist services means supporting GPs, district nurses, care homes and domiciliary care workers to care for more people in the community.
- Plan to meet increased need for end of life care into the future by capturing the right data about palliative care need at a population level and making Wales a nation where planning for our end of life care is the norm.
- Resource a sustainable palliative and end of life care sector so that families who need adults’ and children’s hospices can continue to access this care and care homes can meet increasing need.
- Build capacity and resilience in communities to care for people at the end of life through supporting Compassionate Cymru approaches and delivering a National Bereavement Framework that’s fit to meet people’s needs in response to Covid-19.
We’re calling on all candidates at the Senedd elections to endorse our ambition to see every person in Wales experiencing death, dying and bereavement reached with care and compassion.