Substance users may not get same end of life care, researchers say

Alcohol and drug users may not get the same access to end of life care as other people, researchers tell an addictions conference.

Substance users may not get the same access to end of life care as other people, research shows.

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A multi-disciplinary research team at Manchester Metropolitan University carried out interviews and ran focus groups with health and social care practitioners looking at the care given to alcohol and drug users nearing the end of life.

They found substance users who accessed hospices reported good quality care but these were limited in number.

Fear of being judged

Practitioners thought some people were choosing not to seek this support for fear of being judged on their addiction. Others felt GPs and hospitals were not referring people to them.

The research included three focus groups in hospices and four in substance user services, involving a total of 40 professionals, including senior community nurses.

The team also conducted 17 interviews, covering 15 professionals, one service user and one family member.

Presenting the as yet unpublished findings at an addictions conference in Portugal, professor of adult social care at the university Sarah Galvani said: ‘Do they have access to the same care as non-substance users? Probably not at the moment.’

Difficult conversations

She added: 'What we do know is that some people with substance problems are self-selecting out of end of life care services through fears about the services, whether or not they can smoke for example, but others are not being given the opportunity for hospice care.'

Professor Galvani told Lisbon Addictions 2017: ‘When people have managed to access hospice care, the care has been very positive and they have not felt judged at all.’

She said health professionals found it difficult to know when was the right time to raise end of life care with substance users.

‘We need to think about how we are going to facilitate these conversations in the care pathway,’ Professor Galvani told the conference.

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