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New specialist ambulance team to improve end of life care, especially for cancer patients

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A specialist ambulance service, involving a new charity nurse post, is being established to help ensure the wishes of terminally ill patients in the North East are respected.

Those behind the move said it aimed to address problems that have been highlighted across the UK around the quality of care and support for patients at the end of their lives.

“[We] are confident this work will make a huge difference to people with cancer”

Tina Thompson

The service has been created through a new partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support and North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

The Macmillan Supportive, Palliative and End of Life Service, which is believed to be the first of its kind across the North, is set to launch at the start of 2018.

The charity has invested £350,000 over a three-year period to enable the trust to recruit three new roles – a Macmillan nurse facilitator, a Macmillan engagement officer and an admin support role.

Working from within the trust’s operations centre, the new team will be tasked with equipping ambulance staff with the specialist skills necessary to support terminally ill patients and the people around them, whether that be on a 999 call, a NHS 111 call or a scheduled transport service.

The team will also work with other healthcare and social care providers across the region to ensure patient care plans are fed into the system so their wishes can be respected throughout the process.

“We have an ambition to deliver first class care to palliative and end of life patients”

Alison Kimber

As well as providing better patient care, it is hoped this service will mean more patients can continue to be cared for at home and prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital.

Recruitment for the new team is due to begin in the autumn.

Tina Thompson, Macmillan partnership manager in the North East, said: “Our research has highlighted numerous issues around the UK, such as people with cancer not being able to die at home, or not receiving adequate pain relief.

“These problems can be addressed when staff are given specialist care skills to provide excellent support for people at the end of their lives, and those around them,” she said.

“We’re really pleased to have linked up with the North East Ambulance Service and are confident this work will make a huge difference to people with cancer,” she added.

Alison Kimber, the North East Ambulance Service’s clinical services manager, said: “We have an ambition to deliver first class care to palliative and end of life patients.

“Currently, patients who call 999 or NHS 111 for support will receive an ambulance due to the complexities of their conditions, which will usually result in them attending an emergency department, regardless of that patient’s wishes,” she said.

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“This funding from Macmillan allows us to introduce palliative care expertise into the ambulance service, thereby enabling us to provide a more appropriate responsive service within the community for those patients to better meet their needs and wishes,” she added.

The new service expands on work already undertaken to improve end of life services for North East patients, said the ambulance trust.

For example, this has included a successful end of life transport scheme, which allows healthcare professionals to arrange transportation for patients to be able to die in a place of their choosing.

The trust has also seconded Dawn Orr, nurse consultant in palliative care at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, for one-year period to further improve services across the region.

For the last year, Ms Orr has been working as a nurse advisor and clinical expert within the trust’s clinical assessment service, supporting staff both in the operations centre and on the road to develop the Macmillan service.

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