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End-of-life care will become a legal right

Dying people will be given an explicit legal right to healthcare for the first time in NHS history, requiring every part of England to provide specialist palliative care.

New analysis from the charity Marie Curie shows that about 215,000 people a year miss out on end-of-life care and that without intervention this could rise to 300,000 within 20 years.

The government will back an amendment to the Health and Care Bill in the House of Lords.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a professor of palliative care medicine and supporter of the amendment, said: “This change is incredibly important. For the first time the NHS will be required to make sure that there are services to meet the palliative care needs of everyone for whom they have responsibility in an area. People need help early, when they need it, seven days a week — disease does not respect the clock or the calendar.”

She told the Lords that although “general basic palliative care should be a skill of every clinician”, specialist palliative care was a “relatively new specialty, which is why it was not included in the early NHS legislation”.

The government amendment will introduce a specific requirement for “services or facilities for palliative care” to be commissioned by integrated care boards, responsible for local services under the government’s NHS reforms, in every part of England.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of Marie Curie, said: “If you need palliative and end-of-life care today, the chances of you getting the pain relief, symptom control and support for your family that you need depend largely on where you live, your ethnicity, gender and on what condition you have. This is wrong.

“We welcome the news coming out of the Department of Health and Social Care. The impact of this legal requirement to provide appropriate care to dying people could be transformative — it is one of the biggest developments in end-of-life care since the inception of the NHS. This change has the potential to end the current postcode lottery and make end-of-life care fair for all."

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: The Times, 25 February 2022


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