Thank you to Halton constituents for contacting me recently about end of life care and the related campaign by Marie Curie.
Each year around 500,000 people die in England and Wales and half of those deaths occur in hospitals. 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, palliative care staff in hospitals and Macmillan and Marie Curie nurses.
I believe we must ensure that end of life care is fit for purpose in all settings. Marie Curie has highlighted its concerns about the current ‘postcode lottery’ in palliative care. It points out that, while the majority of people would prefer to die at home, a lack of investment in community care and the Government’s failure to act on social care has resulted in more older and vulnerable people being admitted to hospital.
It is clear that offering better support in the community would mean fewer hospital admissions. Too many people approaching death are forced to spend long periods of time in hospital owing to a lack of social care or alternative support options. £6.3 billion has been cut from adult social care budgets since 2010 and there are now 400,000 fewer people receiving publicly-funded social care. I believe these reductions have resulted in overworked staff, poorer quality care and people failing to get the care they need to live with dignity.
As you know, NHS England is developing a new 10-year plan. It has established a series of working groups across many policy areas and a final report is expected by the end of autumn. I understand your concerns that palliative care may not be receiving the attention it deserves. I agree that investment in community care and the provision of free end of life care could help to reduce inequalities in this area. I will press Ministers to take this into account as it works with NHS England on any future long-term plan.
At the 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto with a commitment to invest an extra £37 billion into the NHS and £8 billion into social care, provide free end of life care, and to pay care staff the national living wage and end 15-minute care visits. The manifesto also pledged to move towards developing a new National Care Service which would provide dignity and care in older age.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue. I will bear in mind the points you have raised and monitor the development of NHS England’s 10-year plan closely.
Derek Twigg MP