Page last updated at 01:42 GMT, Tuesday, 10 January 2006

Calls for better care for dying

Hands
Care varied across England and Wales, the group said

Dying people should be given better care at the end of their lives, a cross-parliamentary group says.

The group said there were "serious inequities" in the distribution of palliative care in England and Wales.

The group said the 850,000 people who die in England and Wales each year should be given a "gold standard" of care wherever it happens.

The Department of Health said "end of life" care had improved, with 12m being invested from 2004 to 2007.

Last month the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS managers, said that high quality palliative care should be available for more people, and not just those with cancer

As with so much in the NHS, quality is of a high standard but quantity and distribution leave something to be desired
Frank Field
Chairman of Dying Well group

The parliamentarians from the Dying Well group said people had the right to choose whether they die at home, in a hospice or in hospital.

They also said they would oppose any change in the law to legalise medical assistance with suicide or euthanasia.

The group's chairman, Labour former minister Frank Field, said that despite the UK being a world leader in palliative care, "many people are not receiving the care which they need - and deserve - to enable them to have peaceful and natural deaths."

'Quantity lacking'

He added: "As with so much in the NHS, quality is of a high standard but quantity and distribution leave something to be desired."

Ill people should be supported in preparing themselves to die, and their carers should be helped during and after their death, the group said.

The group are opposed to euthanasia on moral and ethical grounds, said Mr Field.

"With an increasingly ageing population, it is important that more resources should be channelled into an area of health care which many of those who are dying need but which too few of them are getting," he said.

The Department of Health said palliative care for cancer patients had been improved, including more funding.

Progress

National Director for Cancer, Professor Mike Richards, said: "We have made a great deal of progress in specialist palliative care services.

"We spent an extra 50 million in 2003/04 in specialist palliative care, including hospices - meeting the commitment set out in the NHS Cancer plan.

"Over half of this extra investment has gone to the voluntary sector, mainly hospices, and has so far helped to fund 28 new palliative medicine consultants, 133 new clinical nurse specialists and 38 new specialist palliative care beds."

He also said that the End of Life Care initiative was begun in 2004 in which an extra 12 million would be invested over three years.

The money is be used to train staff working in general practices, care homes and on hospital wards "so that all adult patients nearing the end of life, regardless of their diagnosis, will have access to high quality palliative care".

Last month the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS managers, said that high quality palliative care should be available for more people, and not just those with cancer.



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