End of life care was not seen as an essential, frontline service during the COVID-19 pandemic according to a report published by PIF member Marie Curie.
The Better End of Life Report 2021 shows how palliative and end of life care in the UK was compromised by shortages of PPE, essential medicines, and equipment.
Its publication marks the launch of the Better End of Life research programme – a collaboration between Marie Curie, King's College London Cicely Saunders Institute, Hull York Medical School, University of Hull, and the University of Cambridge.
The programme will examine evidence on the current state of dying, death and bereavement across the the UK and propose a policy agenda aimed at helping to ensure that everyone has the best possible end of life experience.
Better End of Life key findings
Key findings from the Better End of Life Report 2021 include:
- Many more people died this year than usual, with many experiencing tremendous hardships at the end of life.
- The place where people died changed, with many more dying at home.
- Palliative and end of life care services have been a vital part of the pandemic emergency response, switching their services into delivery in community settings.
- Care was compromised by shortages of essential PPE, medicines and staff – these were made worse by hospices not being seen as 'frontline NHS'.
The report says more needs to be done to understand the care people did and did not receive to ensure the system is ready for the increased number of people dying in the future.
This is projected to be 100,000 more people a year across the UK in 20 years.
'Crucial that lessons learned are applied to policy and practice'
Marie Curie chief executive Matthew Reed, said: "Many people will not be able to forget the deaths we have experienced this last year, but it is crucial that the lessons learned during the pandemic are applied to policy and practice in ways that help ensure that, in future, everyone has the best possible end of life care and experience.
"Palliative and end of life care must be an essential part of the health and social care system and not a forgotten after-thought.
"Hospitals and care homes have rightly had a focus in the pandemic but the Better End of Life 2021 Research Report shows us that many in our society fall through the cracks when they need support at the end of life.
"How the dying spend their final days lives on in the memory of the people who love them.
"It is true that most people would choose to die at home, but no one should be allowed to die in pain and without the essential care they need.
"We are calling for a long-term settlement to make sure end of life care is sustainably funded, with a particular emphasis on ensuring people dying at home always receive the support they need.
"The Better End of Life research programme has never been more needed.
"In the coming years it will help national and local decisionmakers across the UK have the evidence they need to improve end of life experience for all."