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Many boards 'ignore needs of dying'

The needs of dying people and their families are being "ignored" by many local health bodies, charities warned.

Just over four in 10 Health and Wellbeing Boards in England consider the needs of people nearing the end of their lives, according to Help the Hospices and the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC).

The bodies reviewed strategy documents of the 152 Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWBs) in England to assess whether they considered the needs of people approaching the end of life.

They found that 24% did not make any reference at all to people approaching the end of life or their care needs in their strategies.

And 26% only made an "indirect reference" to the needs of dying people, they said. Seven per cent of boards had not published their strategies or had not made them publicly available.

The organisations expressed concerns about their findings, saying that at present around 92,000 people die each year without the support they need.

Without action this number could increase rapidly with the ageing population, they added.

Help for Hospices called on the boards, which are made up regionally of health and social care leaders, to explicitly include the needs of dying people in their strategy documents.

"It is disappointing that the needs of people approaching the end of life, their families and carers are still being ignored by so many Health and Wellbeing Boards, which were established to improve services and outcomes for people locally," said Robert Melnitschuk, policy and advocacy manager at Help the Hospices.

"Health and Wellbeing Boards need to respond to current high levels of unmet need for end-of-life care and also prepare for increasing demand for these services as our population ages rapidly.

"We hope that in future HWBs use their influence to drive positive change on service planning and provision in their local communities, so that people approaching the end of life have access to the support they need."

Simon Chapman, director of public and parliamentary engagement at the National Council for Palliative Care, an umbrella charity for those involved in palliative, end-of-life and hospice care, added: " Health and Wellbeing Boards have a key role in shaping the services available to people at the end of their life.

"This report must be a wake-up call to those boards who have failed to recognise that understanding and meeting the needs of the people who are dying in their community, and their carers, must be part of their core business."

Norman Lamb, Minister of State for Care & Support, said: " I want to build a fairer society and that means making sure that people nearing the end of their lives get better care. Care that is compassionate and tailored to the needs of each individual. It means making sure the views of the dying person and their family are heard at all times.

"Health and Wellbeing Boards have an important role to play and must take full account of the end of life care needs of their local community."

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