Research by King’s College London shows that local authorities aren’t planning for the end of life – are you?
New research shows that only 4% of local authorities in England are prioritising end of life and palliative care, despite Britain’s rapidly ageing population.
The study from King’s College London, published in Palliative Medicine journal, analysed the healthcare strategies of 150 local authorities across England. While only 4% specifically prioritised palliative care for people at the end of life, shockingly half of the strategies failed to mention end of life care at all.
Palliative care is a specialist type of healthcare for patients whose conditions cannot be cured. The goal of palliative care is to give patients the best quality of life possible. This may involve controlling their pain and other symptoms, but also includes addressing mental wellbeing and social needs.
With Britain’s population ageing at an increasing rate, research suggests that the need for effective palliative care will increase by 42% by 2040. Yet many local authorities aren’t making provisions for specialist end of life care.
In addition, budgets for palliative care vary widely between different authorities. Some patients will benefit from up to £2,329 per year, while others have just £51.83 allocated to them. Dr Katherine Sleeman, lead author of the study, said there’s a danger of an unintended “palliative care post code lottery.”
“What we found is that while half of Health and Wellbeing Strategies mention end of life care, few prioritise it, and none cite evidence for effective interventions,” Dr Sleeman said. “This is concerning, especially as end of life care has been highlighted as a priority for policy makers nationally and internationally.
“This research highlights the large variations in the prioritisation of palliative and end of life care across England and underscores the need for greater scrutiny of local health and care strategies.”
If you’re worried about end of life care and getting your affairs in order, there are some practical steps you can take:
Make an advance decision
Also called a living will, an advance decision is a legal document that lets you decide what kind of medical treatment you want to receive. You can also make it clear that you want to refuse certain treatments, should you become too ill to communicate your wishes.
An advance decision is legally binding. If you want to make one, you should speak to your GP first, who will be able to advise you about different types of treatment you may want to refuse.
Make an advance statement
Unlike an advance decision, an advance statement is not legally binding. It is a list of your preferences when being cared for at the end of life, or if you become too ill to express your wishes directly.
It might include things like dietary requirements, what type of music or TV you’d like on, what times you like to wake up and go to bed, and any religious beliefs you want to be respected.
Your next of kin and carers may not be able to accommodate all of your requests, but it gives them an idea of what would make you most comfortable in your final days.
Make a will
Writing a will now will make it clear how your estate should be distributed. Your estate includes any possessions, property and money you leave behind.
If you die without a will, the estate will be subject to intestacy laws. This means that people you want to inherit may not receive anything. The only way this can be avoided is by making a valid will. Seek advice from a solicitor or professional will writing service to ensure your will is valid.
Make plans for your funeral
Thinking about your funeral arrangements now can make things easier for your loved ones when the time comes. It also gives you the chance to make important decisions in advance, so that you know you’re getting the send-off you would want.
You can even secure funeral director fees at today’s prices to beat the rising cost of funerals. Find out more about the benefits of a funeral plan.
About the author
With a Masters from the University of Bristol, Jessica Hanson has worked in the funeral sector for several years, following the latest industry trends and writing about end of life planning. Jessica has previously written as a blogger for the Huffington Post, covering topics such as death positivity, understanding grief and how funerals are changing. You can find Jessica on LinkedIn and Twitter.