A new report from end of life charity Marie Curie, released today, details the urgent need to improve and grow the support needed for people at the end of life before it is too late.
Currently, one in four people in the UK dies without the care and support they need at the end of life1. Analysis by Marie Curie shows that if trends continue, by 2048 the number of people with palliative care needs in the UK will climb by more than 147,000 to over 730,000. One factor driving this increase in need is the massive projected increase in the UK’s ageing population, set to climb by 92 per cent to 3,373,0002.
This rise means that, in just 25 years’ time, more than one person a minute will have palliative needs when they die – but hundreds of thousands won’t get the support they need if the system does not change. Marie Curie is on a mission to close this gap so that the sector is set up to meet demand in the coming years and provide care to all those who need it at the end of life.
Marie Curie is focusing on the following areas over the next five years with the aim of reducing pressures on the NHS for people at the end of life:
• Rapid response nursing services – reactive services to support dying people in their homes which helps to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions, including overnight and at weekends
• 24/7 single point of access hubs – which can be accessed by carers and patients to reduce the complexity of navigating healthcare services and providers. Early evaluations of a service in Liverpool that the charity is involved in, which uses this method, has shown a 44% reduction in the average unplanned admissions in last 90 days of life
• Working with the NHS and other providers – to make services in the NHS and other organisations work better for people at the end of their lives, their loved ones, carers and also the taxpayer
• Increase Advance Care Planning – encouraging conversations between people and their families and / or carers about their future wishes and priorities for care. This will enable better planning and provision of care to help them live and die well in the place and manner of their choosing
• More targeted support – providing equity of access for all people, particularly those living in areas of deprivation or underserved groups
Chief Executive Matthew Reed details how the charity intends to be part of the solution to improve the situation for people and their families across the UK:
“At Marie Curie we’re troubled that there’s a gap around people who are not getting the end of life care they need, and that gap is getting bigger, particularly for the poorest communities. Every year, more and more people will be dependent on end of life care – we are going to spend longer in the last chapter of life, with more complex health needs.”
The charity, which was established alongside the NHS, is celebrating its 75th anniversary today. It has been there for millions of people affected by terminal illness and those dealing with dying, death and bereavement since its inception in 1948, and works closely with the NHS to deliver palliative care and support to people in need and their families across the UK.
This need has steadily increased; between 2012 and 2021, the number of people in England dying with palliative needs rose from 416,000 to 495,000 – an increase of 19 per cent. The most common cause of death during this period was cancer, although deaths from conditions such as heart disease remain high and the number of deaths from dementia are increasing too.
By utilising its ongoing research, knowledge and experience gathered over more than seven decades, Marie Curie aims to continue playing a vital role in significantly helping people at the end of life. Its broad offering includes services such as Rapid Response, which provides urgent hands-on care and helps to reduce the risk of unplanned hospital admissions and pressure on local health and social care services, as well as a Support Line for practical or clinical information and emotional support for those living with or caring for someone with a terminal illness.
Matthew Reed continues: “The UK has an end of life problem that is about to overwhelm the NHS and that’s where we at Marie Curie, as the leading end of life charity, are looking to own our leadership role in fixing it. To put it bluntly, you only die once – and the last chapter of life has not been right for many, many people. It is bad for the patient, and it can have a devastating impact on their loved ones too.
“The system we have at the minute does not reflect who we are as human beings, and it is also the most expensive way we could possibly think of doing things – distressed families call 111 and the ambulance service, who are often not best placed to be able to deal with end of life care, so they take people to hospital, which is rarely the best place for dying people to be. What is needed is more – much more – support for people in their own homes. That care is often better, and cheaper, than what is available in hospital.
“We are proud of our past but firmly focused on the future and as we turn 75, these celebrations aim to highlight the urgent need for more palliative care and support services to deliver a better end of life for all. This problem is solvable, and we intend to solve it.”