Hospice service leaders say they need to prepare now for a coming spike in demand, as the number people living to older age in the UK starts to rise sharply over the next few years.
Inevitably that means the number of deaths will also climb, and as the proportion of older people rises it will become essential to increase the provision of hospice care.
A new study into future needs for hospice services has highlighted the escalating demand for palliative care that an ageing population will create.
Hospice charities, including Rennie Grove Hospice Care, have chosen Hospice Care Week, which runs until Sunday, to highlight the coming growth in demand, and to stress the importance of local planning for the surge in patient numbers.
Sue Varvel, the director of nursing and clinical Services at Rennie Grove who also chairs the Buckinghamshire Palliative Care Provider Board, said: “We know that in the next few years there will be a significant rise in the numbers of people needing palliative care.
“Many will be living into their ninth and tenth decades, often with complex health conditions.
“They will need high quality palliative care as they approach the end of life. Care providers need to work closely with local clinical commissioning groups to secure as much funding as possible for palliative care services. ”
Rennie Grove chairman of trustees Stephen Spiro added: “Demand for our hospice at home and day hospice services continues to grow each year, and our nurses are looking after patients who are living longer with increasingly complex illnesses.
“However, the annual growth in patient referrals slowed a little last year and this matches the current national picture of a falling death rate.
“The number of deaths in the UK is set to start rising in 2015, and that’s when we expect to face the beginning of a period of dramatically increased need for our services.”
You can hear more of what the distinguished cancer specialist has to say in our video report.
Rennie Grove aims to help people with life-limiting illnesses to remain at home with their families for as long as possible, and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.
Sue Varvel added: “Most people, when asked, say they would prefer to die at home, but, sadly, across the country that aspiration is not matched by experience.
“At Rennie Grove, our 24-hour on-call hospice at home service enables 65 per cent of our patients to die at home.
“However, across the nation as a whole, the number of people dying at home is only 25 per cent.
One of Rennie Grove’s patrons, cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora, said: “Rennie Grove has helped more people to die at home by dealing with the individual hurdles and challenges that make home care difficult for families.
“It’s the little practical things that make a difference. Most of us want to be at home when the time comes. Many reports have emphasised this, but I really admire Rennie Grove for actually doing it, and quite superbly.
“Everyone is now living longer – which is great, so the death rate has actually gone down in Britain.
“But we know that from 2015 we will see a massive surge in the need for end of life care.
“We need to develop novel approaches to identify the blocks to allow as many as possible to have a real choice in the place of their death.
“Rennie Grove has pioneered diverse ways to achieve this across the whole social spectrum.”
A hospital bed is often not the best place for someone nearing the end of life, and the 2013 report for the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care, says care planners need ‘robust evidence’ on current hospice provision, whether in-patient or in the community, to help them prepare for escalating demand. They say it is ‘paramount’ to increase not only the availability of in-patient hospice beds, but also to ‘diversify’ hospice care.
Sue, who also chairs the National Association for Hospice at Home, said: “The hospice at home model has spread rapidly in recent years, and demand for these services continues to grow.
“We know that patients and their families value precious time together at home.
“We currently have excellent palliative care services in Bucks and Herts, and as care providers we are all committed to ensuring that this continues well into the future.
“That is why it is so important to plan for the huge growth in demand that is just around the corner, and secure the necessary funding to expand hospice care.”
You can get involved during Hospice Care Week to help secure the future of hospice services by making a donation – call 01442 890222 or click here to find out more
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