People with terminal diseases should be offered more free social care and a greater say in the type of support they receive at the end of their life, MPs said last night.
While most people would like to die at home, a shortfall in community nurses and outreach palliative care services make this difficult, the health select committee said.
A review found that round-the clock access to specialist palliative care in acute and community settings would greatly improve the way terminally ill patients and their families and carers are treated.Crucially, patients should be consulted about their wishes to ensure clinicians feel confident talking to people they believe to be near the end of life.
The report was prompted by an independent review of the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway, which recommended doctors withdraw treatment, food and water from sedated patients in some circumstances. This was scrapped in 2013 after investigators discovered cases where patients were left languishing for weeks.
Committee chairwoman and Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston said: “There are unacceptable levels of variation in the care that people receive and this needs to be addressed so that high-quality end-of-life care is available to everyone regardless of their age, medical condition or where they live.” Both the British Heart Foundation and Parkinson’s UK said that while it was easy to determine end-of-life scenarios with cancer patients, those with other conditions can be ignored.
Steve Ford of Parkinson’s UK said: “Huge numbers of people with Parkinson’s lie unidentified as being at the end of their lives, so wouldn’t have access to this support.