A new report by a group of MPs has found that despite rising demand for end of life care, the system is not currently in a position to provide good quality palliative care, including at home.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hospice & End of Life Care showed that the significant rise in deaths, especially in people’s own homes, during the COVID-19 pandemic placed huge pressure on the health and care system and led to incidences of poor care. The sheer volume of death, alongside measures to reduce the spread of infection, resulted in extreme pressure on now exhausted health and care workers and unpaid carers.
With more people expected to die in 2031 than in 2020, the new norm needs to be properly planned for so people can have high-quality end of life care wherever they die.
It also reveals the stark reality of end of life care during the pandemic. Evidence to the APPG painted a distressing picture of the traumatic deaths that took place during the pandemic and the lasting impacts on health and care staff and grieving loved ones.
Additionally, the pandemic worsened the existing inequity in access to, and quality of, care for minoritised groups but the extent of this harm is hidden by a lack of data.
“The report sends a clear message to all decision makers that palliative and end of life care, and in particular high-quality out of hours community services, needs to be prioritised.”
Jonathan Ellis, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Clinical Programmes at Hospice UK
About the report
The report explores palliative care during the Covid-19 pandemic, examining changes to the palliative and end of life care landscape driven by the pandemic, the long-term impact on delivery of care and patient experience, and the long-term impact on staff, families, unpaid carers, and communities.
Despite challenging circumstances, evidence to the APPG also showed enormous resilience and increased collaboration. Innovative approaches, such as expanding out-of-hours services, increased end of life care across the health sector, and improving capacity for administering end of life care medication were adopted with great speed.
The report shows the need to prioritise - not shy away from - death, dying and bereavement in our healthcare system. To do this the report recommends:
- Funding the services that communities need, especially high-quality out-of-hours community services and investigating how specialist services can alleviate pressure on the NHS.
- Improved support and training for palliative care staff, including mental health support following the large volume of death during and since the pandemic.
- Continuing the innovative and collaborative working shown during the pandemic by ensuring this is properly funded and commissioned.
- Helping people to recover from the impacts of the pandemic by encouraging more open conversation around death and dying supported by better bereavement support.
Peter Gibson MP, Co-chair for the APPG
“Our report provides clear recommendations to ensure the health and care system is prepared for future rates of mortality. It also serves as a stark warning for lessons that need to be learnt from the pandemic.
"The Government must take these recommendations seriously to ensure everyone receives the care and support they need at the end of their life."