A charity leader has said end-of-life care services are “more important than ever” after new figures revealed death rates in England are on a steep incline.
Rick Wright, policy manager at Marie Curie, called for palliative support to be kept top of the NHS agenda in light of fresh predications by Public Health England.
“The NHS must ensure that end-of-life care remains a priority in its long-term planning”
The government body said the number of people dying in England had been steadily increasing over the past several years.
In 2011, there were just over 450,000 deaths in England and this rose to almost 500,000 last year. PHE anticipates this to increase a further 10% by 2023 and hit 550,000.
The figures are included in PHE’s latest Health Profile for England report, which was published today and explores the current and future state of nation’s health.
The document stated: “With England’s population both increasing and ageing, it was inevitable that the downward trend in number of deaths, seen since the late 1980s, could not continue indefinitely.”
“We have to be able to provide every person with the end-of-life care they need in the place where they want to be”
The report shows life expectancy has reached 79.6 years for men and 83.2 for women. However, women will spend on average 19.3 years of their life in poor health, and men 16.2 years.
Commenting on the findings, Mr Wright said: “This report from PHE starkly lays out what our ageing population means for the future of care in the UK. With more people dying and living longer, we can expect to see far more people with multiple health conditions and complex care needs towards the end of their lives.
“This means that proper end-of-life care will be more important than ever for guaranteeing that people are able to get the support they need in their final weeks and days,” he said.
“If the NHS is going to be in a position to confront this challenge, it must ensure that end-of-life care remains a priority in its long-term planning.”
Marie Curie supports families through terminal illness. The charity has its own nurses and healthcare assistants who care for patients in their homes.
“The challenge now is for the NHS to respond to this changing landscape”
In response to the PHE report, Jonathan Ellis, director of advocacy and change at Hospice UK, called for greater investment in community-based palliative care services, which are often delivered by nurses.
He said: “We know from surveys that most people want to be at home when they die, and this is reflected in the fact that 80% of the people supported by hospices die at home.
“So the forecast increase in the number of deaths highlights the need for greater investment in community-based end of life care, including hospice services,” he said. “We have to be able to provide every person with the end-of-life care they need in the place where they want to be.”
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was the leading cause of death in women in 2016 and could overtake heart disease to become the most common killer of men by 2020, PHE revealed.
Paul Edwards, director of clinical services at Dementia UK, which runs the Admiral Nurse service, said dementia often “falls through the gaps” and called for a “joined-up approach” to health and social care.
Paul Edwards Dementia UK
Source: Dementia UK
He added: “Carers often ring up our Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline, which is staffed entirely by specialist dementia nurses, simply not knowing who or where to turn to in times of need.
“It’s the variance in regional care and support as well as a lack of awareness around the condition, from all sections of society, which can lead to dementia falling through the gaps,” said Mr Edwards.
“It’s high time we address the need for seamless integration between health and social care to address these imbalances, and not just for dementia,” he said.
He added: “The ultimate test for this will be when the social care paper in the autumn as well as the NHS 10 year plan are both unveiled later in the year.”
PHE also revealed that the number of people with diabetes was expected to increase from just under 4m in 2017 to almost 5m in 2035 – and could jump even higher if obesity levels escalate.
Nikki Joule, policy manager at Diabetes UK, said the figures “cannot be ignored”, and stressed the importance of curbing the rise of type 2 diabetes by helping to support people at risk of developing the condition.
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said: “The challenge now is for the NHS to respond to this changing landscape and to focus on preventing as well as treating the conditions which are causing the greatest disease burden across our nation.”