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End-of-Life Care

Volume 520: debated on Tuesday 7 December 2010

8. What assessment he has made of the merits of steps to increase the standard of end-of-life care in an acute setting; and if he will make a statement. (28705)

The Government are committed to increasing choice for people at the end of life, which will result in fewer people dying in hospital. However, there will always be a need for hospital-based end-of-life care. The national end-of-life care programme has published a guide for achieving quality in acute hospitals, which includes recommendations on holistic assessment, advance care planning, training, and improved multi-disciplinary working. The guide has been widely welcomed as a blueprint for improving the quality of end-of-life care.

Ministers will be aware of the Queen Alexandra hospital’s withdrawal of its G5 service to create a mobile model of end-of-life care. That will extend services across the hospital, but my constituents and I have grave concerns at the number of quiet and appropriate beds that will be left. Will Ministers agree to meet me to discuss what can be done to encourage the QA to meet the public’s concerns?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question and I know that she has campaigned on that issue. She will know that on 25 October, the Secretary of State asked the independent reconfiguration panel to consider the issue that was raised by the Portsmouth health overview and scrutiny committee regarding a referral of ward G5. The advice has now been tendered, and the Secretary of State has asked the panel to undertake a full review of the case. He expects that report by March of next year and I am sure that during that period, conversations at ministerial level will be helpful.

Most people want to die at home, but they are prevented from doing so by the lack of out-of-hours support. Also, 24/7 community nursing is popular with the National Audit Office because it saves money. Even the Government say it is crucial, so why do they not use some of the £3 billion they are wasting on top-down reorganisation to ensure that everybody gets a community nurse at the end of their life, if they want one? How can the Government guarantee care for the dying if they abolish primary care trusts?

Perhaps a little humility might have been a necessary preface to that question, including, not least, an acknowledgment that the hon. Lady’s question is based on the failings of the previous Administration to deliver the necessary improvements in end-of-life care. On GP commissioning, there is undoubtedly an opportunity to integrate health and social care to deliver more timely and appropriate community-based end-of-life care, and we intend to deliver it.