Report reveals future challenges for delivery of end of life care in Somerset

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Report reveals future challenges for delivery of end of life care in Somerset

Report reveals future challenges for delivery of end of life care in Somerset

A number of key challenges face the delivery of quality end of life care in the region, including increased competition for public funding and a need for better integration of healthcare services.

According to a report by Yeovil and Taunton-based St. Margaret’s Hospice, sustaining and growing its workforce, including volunteers, and the growth in patients with complex needs such as dementia also needs to be urgently addressed.

It follows six months of consultation into the delivery of palliative care in the region, designed to identify better and more efficient models that could be blueprints for the rest of the country.

'Fit for Future' has brought together leading healthcare experts, carers, national cancer charities, families, patient representatives, church leaders, academics, neighbouring hospices, politicians and the local authority, to assess the action that is needed now to support palliative care provision in the future. It comes at a time the county, and the UK, is facing up to the dual challenge of funding cuts and increasing health and social care needs as we live longer. 

The report recommends six areas that need to be addressed: finance and funding; rising demand, maintaining quality; fractured services; accessibility and equity of care and maintaining and growing the care community.

Not only is the number of people who need palliative care predicted to grow, it is becoming more complex with the prevalence of dementia and life limiting illnesses other than cancer.  Lack of hospice beds and the rural nature of the county is also an issue, which will drive the need for more care in the community, either at home or in ‘cottage hospices’. 

Ann Lee, Chief Executive, said: “In Somerset, our demographic suggests we will see a significant increase in the number of patients in need of palliative care above the current position of 5,000 a year, which is already a challenge. 

“We also have one of the biggest ageing populations in the UK. By 2033, most of the county is likely to have at least 25% of the population over 65 and it is projected that there will be as many people in their 80s as in their 20s (source ONS).

“In the next 15 years it is predicted that, without reform to the way we do things, around 40% of the population will die alone without adequate care and support. This is a situation that will be reflected around the country.

”Not only do we have a growing elderly population, it is becoming more diverse in its needs. There are already many people who are becoming hard to reach such as homeless people and those in rural locations. We have to ensure there is equity in the delivery of care. 

“This interim report confirms to us that we have to take a major new approach to the delivery of end of life care.  The cost of this care is overtaking our ability to generate charitable income, so we have to look at more sustainable and creative ways to use our budget, in collaboration with the rest of the caring community. This could be through the use of technology or pooling access to 24 hour care. 

 “And to do all this we need to sustain and grow our workforce, including the critical bank of volunteers.”

The report will now be subject to further consultation, with recommendations made to the Board of Trustees, chaired by Lord Paddy Ashdown, and practical care models piloted at the end of the year.

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