Statistics show almost half of the 23,866 deaths in Greater Manchester from September 2017 to June 2018 occurred in hospital, even though in some cases there was no clinical need for patients to be there and surveys suggest most people would not choose hospital as their preferred place to die.
It is in this context that James Frith, MP for Bury North, has just published his report ‘Living Well and Dying Well’, which highlights the role of hospices in an integrated health and social care system in Greater Manchester.
It is a well-researched, comprehensive dossier which concludes that a third of people die in hospital when there is no need to be there and that this happens for a variety of reasons. As a result, hospice care is not always considered. Even when considered, the funding model doesn’t always work. As a result there is under-occupancy and some minority groups are not represented well.
James recommends the number of hospice beds should be increased, establishing consistent funding plans to improve patient choice on whether hospice care is at a hospice, home or community-led, and guaranteeing all patients have access to hospice care.
We are now studying his findings and recommendations. James has kindly agreed to sit on our new End of Life programme board, which will work collaboratively with other members of the end of life care sector to write a new framework, a set of standards which will aim to improve what services we offer across all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester and increase the personal choices available for everyone. We want people to be able to die the way they choose.
A team has been involved in end of life and palliative care for some years, with senior leader support since the Partnership was formed over two years ago, focusing on areas which could be improved and encouraging people to talk openly about dying, for example marking Dying Matters week with an Art of Dying exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery.
This has provided us with a very strong foundation. We’ve been busy getting to know people across the sector and the great work they do, from hospices to the army of family carers, who play a vitally important role in our community. They have told us how they think the system could be improved and we’re confident that by working together we will produce a plan, and therefore services, which comprehensively support people here in the final stages of life. James’s report is an important contribution to that goal.