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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 December 2005, 14:02 GMT
UK 'needs better palliative care'
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More support should be given to carers, the report says
A group representing NHS managers is calling for more to be done to improve care to patients who are dying.

The report by the NHS Confederation says that high quality palliative care should be available for more people, and not just those with cancer.

It draws on research showing most people die in hospitals or care homes, even though many would prefer not to.

The Department of Health said it had begun initiatives to take account of these issues.

TV star Esther Rantzen, who is making a programme on the subject for BBC Television, told the Today programme there needed to be a change in attitude in the medical profession and among people in general.

"We've done a huge survey in the population about attitudes to death, firstly that we and the rest of the population need to make our wishes clear and secondly that the medical profession needs to up this in priority," she said.

"There are 100 vacancies across the country in consultancies in palliative care, they need to be filled by good doctors and the rest of the medical profession needs to understand that this is a skill which they can all learn and they can all share."

Other conditions

A DoH spokesman added the report would further inform its thinking in the forthcoming White Paper on care outside hospital.

The National Health Service hasn't really got to grips with the mundanities of death which may be very painful... and yet not be cancer
Sarah Lewis

Palliative care aims to give dying people pain relief and wider support to help them and their families.

The report said although some excellent services existed, others were overstretched or used inappropriately.

It also found that most care for dying people was weighted towards cancer patients, yet more people died of other conditions, such as heart failure.

The group's deputy policy director Jo Webber said: "What we are calling for is a change so that we can extend the range of people who have access to hospice type arrangements.

"So not necessarily going into a hospice, but have those sorts of range of services available for them.

"And also to strengthen some of the support for carers, for professionals working with them out in the community."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Esther Rantzen discusses her experience of palliative care



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