Heather Richardson, Joint Chief Executive said: “This guidance confirms the approach required by all staff caring for people who are dying, regardless of the context of their death and their diagnosis. Most importantly it places at its centre the patient and their family, their needs and preferences, and requires that professionals have important conversations with them about their condition and treatment options, as a basis for agreeing a way forward”.
St. Christopher’s aims to achieve this for every patient in its care. It enjoys a long history of delivering highly individualised services to people with life threatening/life limiting conditions and their families.
Even so, it recognizes that this is not always easy or indeed possible to achieve, particularly when people’s conditions or needs are complex in nature or rapidly changing. These challenges are heightened in places like hospitals where staff face diverse and often competing demands.
If professionals are to be competent in delivering care according to the new guidance they will need time, training and support to do so. Hospices like St Christopher’s are ideally placed to deliver such training and have devised innovative programmes to enable staff in hospitals, care homes and in primary care to provide high quality care for people in the last days of life. Some of its development programmes also help staff to make changes in their workplace to enable better care for people who are dying.
The guidance is to be welcomed, but it will only make a difference if Government, hospices and other providers of end of life care work together to strengthen the health system, build a workforce and create a culture of care in which its various parts can be enacted. This must be a priority for the future.