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Palliative care in the UK 'best in the world'

Published 06/10/2015

Charities warned that too many people in the UK still do not get the end-of-life care they need
Charities warned that too many people in the UK still do not get the end-of-life care they need

End-of-life care in the UK is the best in the world, according to a study.

Research across 80 countries found care provided by the NHS and hospices was "second to none".

Charities welcomed the findings but said too many people in the UK still do not get the care they need.

Marie Curie said there should be no "business as usual approach" following the report.

In the study, Australia was regarded as the second best nation for palliative care, followed by New Zealand.

Ireland, Belgium, Taiwan and Germany also ranked in the top 10 countries in the world for good care.

They were followed by the US, the Netherlands and France.

Among the worst performers were Iraq, Bangladesh, China, the Dominican Republic, Iran and Guatemala.

The 2015 Quality of Death Index was compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Fewer than half (34) of 80 countries provided what could be classed as good end-of-life care - and these accounted for just 15% of the adult population.

But there was praise for poorer countries, with Mongolia ranking 28th after investing in hospice facilities. Uganda was 35th for efforts to improve pain control.

The rankings were worked out from hospitals and hospice environments, staffing numbers and skills, affordability of care and quality of care.

Simon Jones, director of policy and public affairs at Marie Curie, said: "While we recognise the great work that makes the UK a world leader in palliative care, we know from our own research that each year around 110,000 people are missing out on care that they urgently need.

"If there is a 'business as usual' approach following this report, then we will only see more cases of vulnerable people failing to get the care they need.

"One in five people who die in the UK are not getting the care they need. This quite simply is not good enough.

"With more people dying each year, the demand for compassionate palliative care will only increase."

Mr Jones said the UK's "collective ambition" must be to ensure better access to palliative care for everyone who needs it.

This includes improving access to good palliative care, improving training for staff and working out who can benefit, he said.

Annie Pannelay, author of the new report, said: "The UK is an acknowledged leader in palliative care.

"But there is more that the UK could do to stay at the forefront of palliative care standards, such as ironing out occasional problems with communication or symptom control."

Claire Henry, chief executive of the National Council for Palliative Care, said: "At its best how the UK cares for people who are dying is absolutely world-class with hospice care leading the way, but there can be no room for complacency, especially as the demand for palliative care is increasing."

Adrienne Betteley, end-of-life care programme lead at Macmillan Cancer Support, said there was no room for complacency, adding: "We know that too many people in England don't have choice at the end of life; the majority of people with cancer in this country would prefer to die at home, but too few are able to because of an absence of available support.

"We also know that people at the end of life often lack co-ordinated care, meaning people end up in hospital when they have no medical need to be there, causing a significant strain on the NHS."

Health minister Ben Gummer said: "Thanks to our health and care staff and carers working tirelessly, it is very encouraging that we are already providing world leading end-of-life care.

"But we are determined to go even further and are clear that doctors and nurses must always involve patients and families in decisions about their care, regularly review their treatment and make sure patients' wishes are respected."

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