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Review of community palliative care in Somerset

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A review is underway on how end of life care services can be improved in the community across Somerset.

The Fit for Future review, led by St Margaret’s Hospice, represents one of the largest community engagement programmes in the country.

“Providing the best levels of community care can often prove very challenging”

Ann Lee

It is expected to provide a blueprint for improved palliative care for Somerset and beyond. It will focus on the growing role the community is playing in delivering essential services, said the hospice in a statement announcing the review.

The exercise, which began in October, brings together a panel of experts, charities, families, patient representatives, church leaders, academics, hospices and the local authority, to assess the action needed “now to support end-of-life care provision in the future”.

The hospice noted that a significant increase in the number of patients in need of palliative care was expected above the current 5,000 a year, which it described as “already a challenge”.

Innovations being considered include the Midhurst Macmillan Service, designed to provide direct care and support to patients in the last 12 months of life, enabling them to live at home and die in the place of their choice.

Alongside health professionals and a dedicated care co-ordinator, volunteers provide additional support such as shopping and gardening. The service was set up in such a way that even specialist medical interventions could be delivered at the patient’s home.

The Midhurst model was first rolled out in 2006 in rural areas across Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex and was considered a success among patients who generally spent less time in hospital and were more likely to die in their preferred place of care.

St Margaret's Hospice

Review of community palliative care in Somerset

Ann Lee

Meanwhile, the South Somerset Symphony Programme is a new integrated care model already in place, which focuses on patients with three or more specific long term conditions. It gives the patient a single care plan which reduces delays and multiple appointments, saving time, stress and money.

Ann Lee, chief executive of St Margaret’s Hospice, said: “Somerset is a very rural area and providing the best levels of community care can often prove very challenging.

“This is why we need to look at more patient-focused and tailored models of care,” she said.

“In the next 15 years, it is predicted that, without reform, around 40% of the population will die alone without adequate care and support,” said Ms Lee.

She added: “We should now, more than ever, pull our resources together to ensure that everyone receives care that is right for them.”

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