End of life care - be careful what you wish for

WITH reference to the letter entitled ‘Care lottery for Elderly’ (may 23), in 2008 Baroness Warnock wrote in the daily press similar sentiments to those expressed by Bob Mullineaux.

At the time the baroness was an adviser to the New Labour Government on the advent of its proposal for an end of life care strategy. This strategy is now gaining ground and is a part of the training for all staff both medical and nursing, in hospitals and nursing homes and care at home.

As a previous district nurse, I worry with regard to the safeguarding of vulnerable elderly patients weakened by disease and old age but with care might live a reasonable time further. The idea of this strategy is to mark out the last 12 months of a person’s life and accordingly prepare them for death.

With the advent of the takeover of funding and commissioning of services by groups of GP consortia and senates brought into place by the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition Government, we now have the same GP commissioners leading multi-professional groups to assess the probable end of life for the same individuals for whom they are underfunded to provide services.

Originally, those with cancerous conditions were the main people deemed to need these services, but we now have a wider group of patients with other conditions. Palliative care is provided, cost is assessed, and “help” provided towards an end, but surely what is needed is a statutory safeguard for all patients, and we must demand this.

A group also formed is the Dying Matters Coalition: part of its function appears to be accustoming the public to talking about and accepting the inevitability of death.

Life is precious, and this has been the accepted custom previously held by the public. Death comes, and we accept that but do not let us pre-empt that condition. Good care from the NHS has brought us to the good age we now live to, and we wish that will be the same for the younger population.

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We need a discussion on the funding for care and what the public think our priorities should be, but let us be very careful on what we are putting into place here.

MARY COOKE (retired SRN)

Orton Goldhay