Concerns raised over lack of health bodies prioritising end-of-life care

Care for patients who are dying is not being prioritised by local health bodies, research suggests.

End-of-life care, also known as palliative care, is only prioritised in the strategies of 4% of Health and Wellbeing Boards, according to analysis conducted by experts at King’s College London.

Meanwhile only half of these boards, a formal committee of local authorities with adult social care and public heath responsibilities, mentioned end-of-life care in their strategy documents, according to the study published in the journal Palliative Medicine.

Researchers, who analysed documents from 150 regions across England, said the findings were “concerning”.

Lead author Dr Katherine Sleeman, from King’s College London’s Cicely Saunders Institute, said: “What we found is that while half of Health and Wellbeing Strategies mention end-of-life care, few prioritise it, and none cite evidence for effective interventions.

“This is concerning, especially as end-of-life care has been highlighted as a priority for policy makers nationally and internationally.

“This research highlights the large variations in the prioritisation of palliative and end-of-life care across England and underscores the need for greater scrutiny of local health and care strategies to avoid the unintended creation of a palliative care postcode lottery.”

Izzi Seccombe (pictured), chairwoman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Ensuring a dying person receives high quality end-of-life care that is dignified and reflects their wishes is hugely important for councils.

“End-of-life care is becoming more significant for health and social care services, as an increasing number of people now wish to die at home or in a care home than in hospital.

“Councils remain determined to help provide high quality end-of-life care to all who need it, but the crisis in adult social care funding is making this extremely challenging.

“To help this goal, social care needs to be put on an equal footing with the NHS and government needs to address immediate pressures as part of the funding gap facing social care, which is set to exceed £3.5 billion by 2025.”

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