Lack of prioritising in end of life care a 'disappointment', says RCN

Charity Hospice UK's report reveals that local healthcare planners still fail to prioritise the needs of dying people

The RCN has described a report revealing the lack of priority given to end of life care by local commissioners as ‘terribly disappointing’.

The charity Hospice UK published its report, A Low Priority, investigating the extent to which clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and health and wellbeing boards (HWBs) prioritise end of life care.

It found:

  • 34% of HWBs do not consider the needs of dying people when assessing the health and care needs of local populations.
  • Progress has stalled on improving local care and support for people approaching end of life.
  • 57% of HWBs do not include the needs of dying people in their key strategies – the same number as in 2014.
  • More than 27% of CCGs do not have a strategy for addressing end of life care in their area.
  • 71% of CCGs do not have a strategy for children and young people living with life-shortening conditions.

RCN professional lead on long-term conditions and end of life care Amanda Cheesley said: 'The findings are terribly disappointing in view of how much work campaigning organisations have put into improving end of life care.’

She highlighted that commissioning boards are supposed to include someone with responsibility for end of life care. ‘It is disappointing that a significant number don’t have a robust strategy to enable people to die in a dignified way,’ she said.

The report calls for collective action to influence commissioners.

Ms Cheesley said: ‘If there is a nurse representative on their CCG or HWBs, they would be a good point of contact to make the case – and often commissioners welcome the expertise.’

Nurse Heather Richardson, joint chief executive of St Christopher’s Hospice in south London, agreed. ‘Nurses often witness the challenges that dying people face and the impact on their families. Their insights could be hugely beneficial for HWBs and help them shape effective local strategies on end of life care,' she said.

‘Nurses can provide a powerful voice for their patients. They should be encouraged to speak out on behalf of those they support and local strategic bodies such as HWBs should engage with them more.’

Further information:

A Low Priority report by the Hospice Society