We must fight for more inclusive and compassionate care for the terminally ill
Ahead of his Ten Minute Rule Motion on terminal illness today, Bambos Charalambous MP says the Government must ensure equal access to community palliative care services for anyone who is terminally ill.
We only have one chance to give decent care to each person who is diagnosed as terminally ill. No matter what age someone is when diagnosed, there is likely to be a relative or friend who goes above and beyond to unconditionally care for and support them in the last steps of their life.
This week is Children’s Hospice Week and in early June, organisations will join to support unpaid carers during Carers Week. Now is the time to fight for more inclusive and compassionate care for the dying and for a real recognition of the work of their carers.
My Ten Minute Rule Motion: Terminal Illness (Provision of Palliative Care and Support for Carers), on Wednesday 23rd May, will ask that a Bill be brought to address unmet need. The Government must ensure equal access to community palliative care services for anyone who is terminally ill. Hospices, agencies and NHS services must cooperate to join up the currently fragmented provision. And this provision must not be undermined by further huge cuts to district and community nursing services, or be rationed and threatened by the artificial six-month time limit on benefits that ignores clinical need. When palliative care in the community fails, unnecessary hospital admissions become more likely.
I will also be asking that we recognise the work of those who care for their terminally ill relatives and friends. Cuts to funding for social care makes it feel like the Government has contempt for the contribution that these relatives and friends make to our economy and society. Carers of anyone in the UK provide £132bn worth of care each year – equivalent to the entire NHS budget for one year. But 25% of people providing palliative or end of life care reported a six week wait for their carer’s assessment. Carers need breaks, an allowance in line with Job Seekers Allowance, a right to paid leave and support from a more carer-friendly NHS.
Hospices, just like North London Hospice’s Health and Wellbeing Centre in my constituency of Enfield Southgate, can play a role in identifying carers who may not have realised that they have suddenly become a carer and are entitled to an assessment. When focusing on someone at the end of their life, it can become tough to identify your own needs and to fully appreciate the role you have taken on. The Health and Wellbeing Centre works for outpatients and carers – recognising the holistic and inclusive approach that is needed.
For each person who becomes terminally ill, they only have one chance to live well until they die. And for each time the system lets someone down, the Government has missed an opportunity to prove it cares about our society. Let there be no more excuses, no need for explanations and no more regrets.
Bambos Charalambous is Labour MP for Enfield Southgate.