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Palliative care review will call for dedicated nurse for every patient

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Every palliative care patient should be assigned a nurse, or alternative care worker, to “help them navigate their way to a dignified death”, a major review looks set to recommend.

Tom Hughes-Hallett, chair of the Palliative Care Funding Review, was speaking at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the National Council for Palliative Care last week.

We still believe the most important recommendation is for 24/7 community nursing to become standard

Mr Hughes-Hallett, who is also the chief executive of the charity Marie Curie Cancer Care, set out the two key recommendations he expects to come out of the soon-to-be published review, which was commissioned by the Department of Health in July.

He said: “It is likely that [one of the two] core recommendations that will be in the review we publish before the summer, will be that every patient, every family, should have a proper assessment of their needs: What do they actually need to support them in the community?”

He added: “The second recommendation that’s almost certainly going to be there is that every patient and family should have a case worker assigned to them.”

The “case worker” would be a “chauffeur to help them navigate their way to a dignified death”, he said.

In the majority of cases, the role is expected to fall to district nurses, specialist nurses or nursing staff working in hospices.

An interim report for the review, said that a survey carried out as part of the work had found a consensus among respondents that patients should not have to coordinate their own end of life care.

The report, published in December, said: “There were a number of suggestions about where the coordination of services should lie: some felt that this should sit with district nurses, others with hospices, others with a dedicated palliative care team.

“Whichever team they are from, the coordinator needs to be clearly identified, widely supported and well educated.”

Responding to Mr Hughes-Hallett’s comments, Helen Rainbow, senior policy analyst at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the recommendations, if implemented, would both go a long way to providing services that really meet patients’ needs.

She added: “What’s more, they should finally lead to a person’s choice of where they want to die being acknowledged and registered. We still believe the most important recommendation is for 24/7 community nursing to become standard to make choice a reality.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • this is a wonderful concept and one i whole heartedly agree with, but is there going to be enough staff employed to do this initiative justice. I have a particular interest in this and discharging patients into the community with a poor prognosis always makes me a bit nervous that they are not going to get the type of help they need when they most need it, which unfortunately out of hours in alot of cases, as death and dying is no respector of time. I know the poor community nurses are already stretched to breaking with their particular work load, and in this climate of cuts and financial hardship in the NHS it woould be nice that this might actually work, but time will tell.

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