This year, Marie Curie worked with a group of leading end of life care charities to successfully campaign for the first ever legal duty to commission palliative care services in the history of the NHS in England. The Health & Care Bill began its passage through the UK Parliament last year with no mention of palliative and end of life care or terminal illness on the face of the Bill. By sharing a rich mix of evidence from research and practice in palliative and end of life care with senior decision makers in Government and Parliament, and developing at speed a public-facing campaign including both traditional and social media and a petition, we successfully made the case for change. This was a sector-wide campaign supported by Hospice UK, Sue Ryder, Together for Short Lives and Alzheimer’s Society.
By collaborating at every stage, we were able to persuade the Government to introduce through the Bill a new legal requirement for Integrated Care Boards to commission palliative care services in every part of England. This is the first time in the history of the NHS in England that such a duty has existed. The new duty is vital for ensuring our health and care system is fit for the future, as demand for palliative and end of life care is set to increase by 42% in the next two decades, yet the current funding model for hospices is neither resilient nor sustainable.
Experiences of dying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic have reinforced the urgent need for palliative care services working alongside other vital services in community settings. The new duty should also enable hospices to work at tackling the significant inequalities and inequities in palliative and end of life care in England, helping to ensure that in future everyone can have the best possible end of life experience.
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