A network of county-wide health organisations is aiming to raise awareness of its work during the annual Dying Matters Awareness Week which runs from 8 – 14 May.
The Worcestershire Palliative and End of Life Care Network – set up in 2008 -share experiences, good practice and resources to improve services.
Its successes to date include initiating county wide policies on Advance Care Planning, helping patients to take control of what happens to them in the last stages of life and pioneering a web-based electronic platform for the sharing of Palliative and End of Life Care information. This is for patients who give their consent to have their medical records shared with the appropriate professionals who are providing their care enabling more joined up working. Importantly, the Network has secured investment in the provision of seven day a week access to palliative care nurses.
Other initiatives include the introduction of ‘Just in Case’ boxes ensuring patients have the necessary medication at home ‘just in case’ they need it urgently as well as anticipatory prescribing of medication to ensure that people have access to symptom controlling medication at night and at weekends before they develop an urgent need.
Maggie Keeble, End of Life Champion, GP and Chair of the Network said : “Every year more than 5000 people in Worcestershire die and many more are diagnosed with cancer and other serious conditions. Thankfully, and increasingly, a cancer diagnosis, for example, is not necessarily a death sentence but can of course still be a very traumatic experience. This can be a very lonely time for people and their families.
“To coincide with Dying Matters Week 2017, therefore, we are keen to raise awareness of the organisations in the county who can support people at this time. Our aim is to provide a consistent approach for patients, their carers and family members across all the organisations who make up the Network.”
The Network is made up of the following organisations :
- Acorns Children’s Hospice;
- Kemp Hospice;
- Primrose Hospice;
- St Richard’s Hospice;
- Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust;
- Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust;
- Marie Curie;
- Macmillan Cancer Support;
- Hereford and Worcester Ambulance Service;
- Worcestershire Association for Carers;
- Clinical Commissioning Groups;
- Worcestershire County Council.
In response to the National Framework, Ambitions and End of Life Care, the Network has developed a local framework of action to deliver the ambitions of the county to improve care. The six ambitions are:
- That each person is seen as an individual;
- That each person has fair access to care;
- To maximize comfort and wellbeing;
- That care is coordinated;
- That all staff are prepared to care;
- That each community is prepared to help.
Maggie Keeble, Chair of the Network concluded : “By working together in partnership we are optimistic that we can achieve our own ambition to continue to improve care for all people in Worcestershire who are approaching the end of their lives despite the very challenging pressures on the current system.”
During Dying Matters Week network members are organising the following :
St Richard’s Hospice will be taking to the high streets of Evesham on Tuesday 9 May and Worcester on Thursday 11 May with ‘Before I Die’ boards; the Before I Die board is an international initiative where a four-sided blackboard is put in a public space and allows people to write on it in chalk what they hope to achieve, do or be remembered for.
Primrose Hospice which covers the Bromsgrove and Redditch areas are promoting Dying Matters Week through an online campaign usual social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
The term ‘palliative care’ refers to helping people to live as well as possible whilst experiencing serious illness and is focused on comfort and symptom control rather than cure. The ‘end of life’ in this context usually refers to the around a year before death. An awareness that someone is approaching ‘the end’ can be very helpful in enabling them to make plans and to discuss with those around them their preferences for intervention; this process is called Advance Care Planning and is an essential part of End of Life support and awareness.