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End-of-Life Care

Volume 629: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2017

By 2020 we want significantly to improve patient choice in end-of-life care. The Government’s end-of-life care commitment sets out exactly what everyone should expect. In September we published a report on the good progress that we have made over the first year.

The End of Life Care Coalition has said that it remains deeply concerned about the enduring gap in resources for community-based health and social care services. Meanwhile, Together for Short Lives continues to highlight the unacceptable postcode lottery faced by 40,000 children with life-limiting conditions. What is the Minister doing to ensure that all clinical commissioning groups and sustainability and transformation partnerships will meet the Government’s requirements in full for both children and adults by 2020?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, and I know that she, through her role on the all-party parliamentary group for children who need palliative care, will continue to hold me to account on these commitments. We did look at the work undertaken by Together for Short Lives to improve end-of-life care for children, which does require special attention—she is quite right to raise that. NHS England recently co-hosted a policy summit with Together for Short Lives, and I will be meeting it next week to discuss that further. We are also engaging local sustainability and transformation partnerships to support planning for end-of-life care, and helping all trusts to develop and improve their services. This work is ongoing, but it remains a key priority.

When it comes to baby loss, the end of life can often be sudden and unexpected. In this Baby Loss Awareness Week, will the Minister join me in welcoming the launch of the national bereavement care pathway, and pay tribute to Sands, baby loss organisations and charities, the APPG and the former Care Quality Minister, Ben Gummer, who did so much to make it happen?

I am of course happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating those organisations and thank him for all the work that he has done. The 11 pilots launched only last month are very much down to his work and that of hon. Members across the House, who have done so much over the past year to raise awareness of the issue.

Many people would prefer to die at home, but that is actually very difficult to achieve, not only because of the lack of support for Macmillan nurses, for example, but because, frankly, of the reluctance of the authorities to effect a speedy transition to a home base. What can the Government now do to ensure that dying at home is a real option?

The hon. Gentleman is quite right: many people would elect to die at home, if the opportunity were available. We need to ensure provision to allow people to do that, if that is their choice, because we should be supporting people to honour their choices at the end of their lives, and it enables us to treat more people in hospitals and hospices.

Hospices, such as Treetops Hospice Care in my constituency, provide outstanding end-of-life care. Although these services benefit from generous charitable donations that enable them to operate on a day-to-day basis, what more can the Government do to help support hospices when capital investment is needed to improve the current setting of new build?

One of the strengths of our hospice movement is that it relies heavily on charitable donations, which shows that people are generous and that they want to support good, locally focused care. However, CCGs should look at where they can support hospices with their care costs, and we will certainly consider including that in the end-of-life care programme.