Thank you to all the constituents who have contacted me about end of life care and the Health and Care Bill 2021-22.
Care at the end of life is a crucial part of our health and care system. The palliative care workforce works extremely hard to provide good care for people nearing the end of their life. We owe a debt of gratitude to our hospices, care staff in hospitals and Macmillan and Marie Curie nurses.
Up to 90% of people who die may need palliative care, yet Marie Curie estimates that only half of those receive it. Too many people approaching the end of their lives are forced to spend long periods in hospital instead of receiving care at home or in the community.
While COVID-19 has caused serious disruption to end of life care, I am concerned that going into this pandemic the Government had weakened our NHS and care sector; a decade of underinvestment in community care and a failure to bring forward a sustainable plan for social care resulted in people not being properly supported.
As you know, an important amendment was tabled to the Health and Care Bill aimed at improving provision and patient choice in end of life care; two key principles I support. While the amendment was considered for debate, it was not ‘moved’ – this means MPs did not get a chance to vote on it and it was not included in the Bill.
Responding to the amendment, the Health Minister said work is ongoing across the health and care system to support this aim, including a commitment within the NHS Long Term Plan to provide more personalised care at the end of life. But he said it was inappropriate to legislate for such changes as part of the Health and Care Bill.
The NHS Long Term Plan includes welcome ambitions to improve end of life care and reduce avoidable emergency admissions. However, without the much-needed investment and a strategy to tackle workforce vacancies, I am concerned that these ambitions will not become a reality.
We must ensure that end of life care is fit for purpose in all settings. We need a proper plan that will genuinely join-up health and care to meet people’s needs and choices. Every person nearing the end of life must feel safe in the knowledge that they will receive the best care and be supported to die in the place they choose.