NHS needs to collaborate more with hospices

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Hospitals should not be the “default option” for end of life care

Former Conservative party leader Lord Michael Howard has said that hospices should play a greater role in providing end of life care, to stop hospitals becoming the “default option”.

Currently, half of people die in hospital, despite 80% preferring not to. Lord Howard, who is also the chairman of Help the Hospices, has urged the NHS to be closer interlinked with hospices, to give patients more choice at the end of their lives.

The group is planning on setting up a series of pilot schemes across England to encourage ways in which hospitals and hospices could work more closely together. This could involve hospice staff being placed at hospitals, or providing more care in people’s homes, delivering pain relief and emotional support. The charity hopes that these trials will help produce an evidence base to support reducing the number of people dying in hospital.

More support needed

Help the Hospices firmly believes that putting these ideas into action could reduce the number of people dying in hospital by 50,000, which is approximately one fifth. However plans to expand these schemes are hindered by the lack of funding, with a third of hospice money coming from the NHS and the rest relying on charitable donations.

Lord Howard told BBC News “Hospital has become the default option for dying people and for an increasing number of frail elderly people. Hospital should be the last resort at the end of life, not the first one. Hospices can provide the solution.”

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said “We want to make sure that care for people nearing the end of their lives is compassionate and reflects their wishes, including their preferences about where they want to receive care. I welcome Help the Hospices’ commitment to improving care at the end of life and their willingness to work with the NHS.”