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End-of-life Care

Volume 667: debated on Tuesday 29 October 2019

We are absolutely committed to supporting end-of-life care, not only through £4.5 billion-worth of investment in primary and community services but through providing an additional £25 million to palliative care and hospices in 2019-20. Today, I am in a position to announce how the geographical spending of that money will be allocated, and I will be putting the regional breakdown in the Libraries of both Houses this afternoon.

What are the Government doing to better resource support for children’s palliative care, including addressing the shortage of specialist doctors and hospice nurses needed to care for children with life-limiting conditions?

We care passionately about the way in which children’s palliative care is delivered. That is why we have increased the children’s hospice grant from £12 million this year to £25 million in 2023-24. We have also seen a nearly 50% increase in doctors working in palliative care medicine since 2010, but the interim NHS people plan will set out actions to meet the challenges of workforce supply and demand.

Last week in the Queen’s Speech debate, I mentioned a constituent of mine, Liz, who had declined the offer of palliative radiotherapy treatment simply because it would involve a four-hour round trip to get from the Lakes to Preston. Does the Minister agree that it is wrong for cancer patients to be forced to choose shorter lives because they cannot cope physically with the longer journeys?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this matter, and I know that he is meeting the Minister for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), shortly to discuss the details of that individual case. More broadly, the long-term planned commitment to spend that additional £4.5 billion- worth of investment in primary and community health services will definitely help those services to be delivered much closer to people’s homes.

Hospice in the Weald is building the UK’s first cottage hospice, and I viewed it on Friday. It allows family members to care for and stay with their loved ones until the end of their life, and it is absolutely fantastic. The cottage hospice is looking for a Minister to come and open it. I know that there is an election coming, but will a Minister from the winning Front Bench come and do that honour for us in East Sussex?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning that brilliant initiative. I think we will probably be falling over ourselves to volunteer to do the honours, but I would be very happy to put myself forward for that.

Not least due to the charm and courtesy of the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), quite apart from the magnificent facility that he has just been busily championing.

The Minister will know that her colleague, the Justice Secretary, has declined to proceed with a call for evidence on the sensitive issue of assisted dying. Would it not be appropriate for her Department to gather evidence from the professional bodies involved in end-of-life care, to ensure that legislation is evidence-led?

You will know as well as everyone in the House, Mr Speaker, that that is a sensitive matter on which Members have contrasting views. The right hon. Gentleman is right to continue to raise the issue, but the legislation surrounding it continues to lie with the Ministry of Justice.