Hopes for the next Senedd term – Marie Curie

People Hands
ViewsApril 16th, 2021

Bethan Edwards argues all parties in Wales must commit to prioritising end of life care from 2021 and beyond.

Since the first lockdown began in 2020, thousands of people have died in Wales – due to coronavirus and other reasons. Lives have been cut short and too many have been bereaved. Behind the statistics, every death has been devastating for loved ones left behind. Lockdown restrictions have meant family and friends have not been able to say goodbye in the way they want, unable to hold and comfort their loved ones in their final moments. Coronavirus has brought dying, death and bereavement to the forefront of our attention under the most tragic circumstances. Issues surrounding how and where people die have become more familiar to us all. Of the 34,000 people who die in Wales each year, at least 75% would benefit from some form of palliative or end of life care[i]. But for many reasons, 25% of these people will not have access to the care and support that they need[ii]. Furthermore, a rapidly growing and ageing population, combined with an increase in comorbidities, means that providing specialised care is becoming increasingly important; by 2040, the demand for palliative care in England and Wales is set to increase by 42%[iii]. Now more than ever, it is vital to have a well-resourced health and social care service, with a workforce that feels supported and equipped to deliver accessible and high-quality palliative and end of life care.

On 10 February, Marie Curie launched a 2021 Welsh Parliamentary election campaign – ‘Dying well in Wales. Delivering the best end of life care for all’. In our manifesto, we identify three areas that need immediate attention and action over the next parliamentary term: ensuring equitable access to palliative care services, identifying and meeting expectations of everyone approaching end of life, and implementing a person-centred and universal bereavement strategy in Wales. In order to see the progressive movement needed in each of these areas, all political parties in Wales must commit to prioritising end of life care from 2021 and beyond.

Following the launch of our manifesto, we were pleased to hear that work has started to take place around a successor approach to the End of Life Care Delivery Plan. However, to ensure that it is ambitious, accessible, and accountable, we urge that developments are revealed soon and the necessary engagement with health and social care experts, third sector partners and individuals can take place. Without a strategic and accountable framework for improving palliative and end of life care in Wales, we are worried that the sector will be left behind. It is true that palliative care is a cross-cutting area affecting all conditions, but this must not be used as substitution for a specialised strategy for end of life care services. A clear, resolute and fully resourced end of life care delivery plan is vital if we wish to see everyone in Wales being able to access the person-centred care and support they deserve. There is only one chance to achieve a good death and the consequences of getting it wrong can be devastating.

Bethan Edwards is Policy and Public Affairs Officer for Marie Curie

[i] Marie Curie, 2015. Triggers for palliative care Improving access to care for people with diseases other than cancer

[ii] Dixon, J., King, D., Matosevic, T., Clark, M., and Knapp, M., 2015. ‘Equity in the Provision of Palliative Care in the UK: Review of Evidence’, Personal Social Services Research Unit London School of Economics and Political Science

[iii] Bone, A., Gomes, B., Etkind, S., Verne, J., Murtagh, F., Evans, C. and Higginson, I., 2018. What is the impact of population ageing on the future provision of end-of-life care? Population-based projections of place of death. Palliative Medicine, 32(2), pp.329-336.

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