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Stop 'disinvestment' in nursing to improve end of life care

An RCN seminar on end of life issues heard how action was needed to end ‘disinvestment’ in nursing to ensure humane end of life care.

Decline in district nurse numbers and lack of investment in community services is impacting on the care available to people in the late stages of life, according to nursing leaders.

end of life
Around a quarter of hospital beds are occupied by dying people. Picture: IStock

A meeting today in Birmingham, jointly organised by the Royal College of Nursing West Midlands and the National Council of Women, heard debate on palliative care, assisted dying and end of life legal issues.

RCN professional lead for long-term conditions and end of life care Amanda Cheesley said around a quarter of hospital beds were occupied by dying people and, where possible, people should be able to die in their own homes, hospices or care homes.

Savings through at-home care

Ms Cheesley, a community nurse, cited a funding review estimating £180 million annually could be saved by delivering more care outside of acute settings.

Yet, she said, there had been a 41% decline in district nurses in recent years, and community services were under increasing strain.

Ms Cheesley said there were regional differences in community care and while her own experience of her sister’s death, which was supported by a local nursing team in Southend, Essex, was positive, that was not always the case.

'[The team] did a lot of personal care which allowed us to sit with her as a family in her dying days. This made all the difference to us,' she said.

Lack of investment 'inhumane'

RCN West Midlands regional director Paul Vaughan stressed investment across the entire nursing sector was needed to make a difference in end of life care.

'How do we get through to the politicians that you have to invest in this, because without it you become an inhumane society?

'What we are seeing is a disinvestment in nursing and this has to change,' he said.

Baroness Ilora Finlay, a professor of palliative medicine, also highlighted how nurses had difficulty providing patient-centred care for dying patients due to time pressures.

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