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Dignity in Dying comment on the NAO’s report on End of Life Care, 26/11/2008

Media release

26 November 9:30

Dignity in Dying comment on the NAO’s report on End of Life Care

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said today:

“The National Audit Office’s report on end of life care highlights a well-recognised problem. Access to high quality services and a respect for people’s wishes at the end of life are essential to ensuring a dignified death. Only this week we were contacted by somebody with a Dignity in Dying Advance Decision who had been resuscitated against her wishes and transferred from her care home to a hospital.

High quality patient centred end of life care, which is routinely available in hospices, also needs to be provided in all hospitals and care homes. This means equipping Health and Social care staff with the skills necessary to deliver high quality care to those approaching the end of their lives. We are especially concerned about the lack of formal training for care home staff.

Progress is being made, the introduction of Advance Decisions, which allow people to set out their wishes in advance of a loss of capacity, and the Government’s End of Life Care Strategy are much welcomed. However, the End of Life Care Strategy needs to be fully implemented as quickly as possible, as good policy is useless unless it becomes good practice. We also need to ensure that people’s wishes as set out in their Advance Decisions are formally recorded and accessible to attending health professionals.”

In June this year we published our Charter for Dignity at the end of life. It contains ten key recommendations. We will continue to lobby hard to ensure that these recommendations are met.


Notes to editor:

About Dignity in Dying:

Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.

Dignity in Dying is a leading provider of advance decisions. Advance decisions allow adults to set out in advance any medical treatments that they wish to refuse at the end of life.

Dignity in Dying has over 100,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.

Opinion polls consistently show that at least 80% of the UK population supports a change in the law on assisted dying.

About the Charter for Dignity at the End of Life

The Charter for Dignity at the End of Life is calling for choice, control and access to be at the heart of improvements to end-of-life care.

Control and choice are the foundations of a dignified death. People increasingly want to exercise choice about how and where they die. End-of-Life Care Plans enable people to express their needs and wishes for care at the end of life and Advance Decisions allow people to exercise control about future treatment. High quality palliative care needs to be tailored to individual needs.

Dignity in Dying strongly supports good quality palliative care but also believes that in order to achieve real choice at the end of life, the option of a medically assisted death is to be considered as one of the options available to terminally ill, mentally competent people, alongside access to good palliative care. Although only a minority of terminally ill people would exercise the right to an assisted death, many will take comfort in having this choice. At Dignity in Dying we believe that assisted dying forms part of a wider debate around choice at the end of life. That is why the Charter includes this call.

The ten Charter calls are:

1. Everyone should have the opportunity to create an End-of-Life Care Plan setting out their needs and wishes for the end of life, and should have access to good advice services to inform their choices

2. Health professionals should have a duty to carefully consider people’s wishes as set out in their End-of-Life Care Plan, such as their preferred place of care at the end of life

3. Government should promote awareness of Advance Decisions so that everyone knows that they have a legal right to refuse treatment

4. Advance Decisions must be recorded in a central national health register so that health professionals can take them into account in treatment

5. Building on the principles of choice and control at the end of life, Parliament must give terminally ill, mentally competent people the right to have an assisted death

6. More resources should be made available for palliative care. Government must deliver on its manifesto commitment to double funding for palliative care and all political parties should pledge to match this investment

7. Decision makers should end the postcode lottery in accessing palliative care services by providing a consistent and transparent system for commissioning services

8. Carers of terminally ill people should receive more support with a Carers’ Benefit introduced for all those providing 35 or more hours of care per week regardless of age; legal protection against employment discrimination for carrying out a caring role; and better access to respite care

9. Health and social care professionals should have access to training on end-of-life issues including offering emotional, psychological and spiritual support to patients; communication skills and high-quality bereavement skills

10. Bereaved people should have easy access to advice services offering first point of call assistance to other support such as legal and financial advice and referral to counselling services, as appropriate

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