Surge expected in need for end-of-life care as significant numbers delaying seeking medical advice

A hospice charity is preparing for an increase in demand for end-of-life care as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sue Ryder said it was preparing for a surge in demand after a poll found that a significant proportion of people had delayed seeking help for potentially serious symptoms.

A survey conducted by the charity found that 34% of the 2,000 British adults surveyed say that they, or someone they knew, delayed seeking medical advice for troubling health issues during lockdown.

Some of the respondents to the poll said they did not want to seek medical advice for fear of catching coronavirus or concerns over their health issues putting additional demand on the NHS.

Issues which people have not sought help for include: new and continuous pain, severe tiredness, a rash or skin issue, migraines and shortness of breath.

The charity said that the findings are concerning because some of these symptoms could indicate serious illness, including cancer.

On top of people delaying seeking help, the Covid-19 pandemic also led so thousands of treatments and operations being cancelled or postponed.

Sue Ryder said that as a result it has begun planning for an increase in need for palliative care over the coming months and years.

Heidi Travis (pictured), chief executive at Sue Ryder, said: “Our most recent research has thrown up some gravely concerning results regarding potentially serious symptoms going unchecked.

“When you pair that with over three quarters of people telling us that they now want to receive end of life care in either a hospice or at home, it is clear that we should expect an increase in the numbers of patients needing our care.

“The coronavirus pandemic has shown that the Government recognises specialist palliative care providers are a vital part of the integrated health and care system.

“To ensure Sue Ryder and the entire palliative care sector can continue to be there for people at the end of their lives, the Government must start planning now for how they can increase long term statutory funding and relieve the pressures facing palliative care services across the country.”

Commenting on the poll, Dr Adrian Tookman, medical director at Marie Curie, said: “We are acutely aware of the many serious implications coronavirus will have on the end-of-life care sector in the coming years.

“As an organisation that is already gearing up to cope with increasing demand from an ageing population, this research further confirms our fears that we will, without doubt, see a considerable additional surge in demand to our services due to the delay of diagnosis and treatment during this crisis.”

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