A pledge to revolutionise palliative care in Norfolk and Waveney has been made by the area’s health and social care workers.

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A summit, held in Norwich yesterday, brought together representatives of a host of public, private and voluntary organisations who are all involved in supporting patients and their families during their final days, weeks and months.

They were determined to come up with an action plan that would lead to the end of the fragmented care that too many people currently experience.

Palliative care has come under the spotlight in recent months following the controversy over the Liverpool Care Pathway – a programme designed to ease suffering – and the way it was being used in some hospitals.

Each year 9,000 people in Norfolk die with an estimated 7,895 of them requiring some form of “end of life care” from clinical treatment to deal with their physical symptoms to emotional support for both them and their families.

By 2025, with a growing and ageing population, that figure is expected to rise to more than 8,600 – 6,720 of them aged 75 and over – needing palliative care.

But the support they want is likely to come from a wide range of different organisations and sectors.

Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk Richard Jewson, who called yesterday’s summit at Norwich City Football Club, said those groups were not working together well enough at the moment.

He said: “I brought everybody together because, as I went round Norfolk visiting hospitals and charitable organisations, I found everybody doing wonderful work in the field of palliative care but with less awareness than I would have hoped of what each other does. It became quite clear to me that, if they could work more closely together, they would produce better outcomes for Norfolk people.”

At yesterday’s summit, representatives of organisations ranging from Norfolk County Council, the ambulance service and the area’s new clinical commissioning groups, to Age UK and the East Anglia Children’s Hospices (Each), were asked to come up with ways to improve the care they provide.

Jenny Harries, former director of public health for Norfolk and one of the panel speakers leading the summit, said: “We have agreed we want to revolutionise palliative care locally.”

The group came up with three main action points which they decided were vital to improving services.

They were:

Improving the way information is shared between organisations. In the short term, they aim to introduce a standard “home folder” paperwork system which gathers together all the information need about a patient’s care. In the long term, they hope to turn that into an electronic system.

Ensuring 24/7 access to specialist advice on palliative care.

Including all types of providers – from charities through to independent domiciliary care providers – in the revolution to ensure they are all on board.

An “implementation working group” of palliative care representatives will now be formed to ensure those ideas are taken forward.

“What we all want now is action, we want things to happen,” said Mr Jewson.

The conference also agreed that any changes needed to ensure a patient’s wishes were at the heart of any decisions, that emotional and psychological support was just as important a part of the care on offer as clinical treatment, and help for families as well as patients was easy to access early on.

Yesterday’s conference heard from a number of speakers linked to the delivery of “end of life” services.

Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP and minister for health and social care, told the group the coalition government was “totally committed to developing and supporting end of life palliative services to ensure the care received, whatever their diagnosis and wherever they are, is passionate, kind, of a high quality and supports what their wishes are above anything else”.

Baroness Finlay, a professor of palliative care at Cardiff University, has set up palliative care and hospice services across Wales.

She offered some inspiration for the delegates based on the pioneering work she has been involved with – from the creation of a 24/7 advice service to the development of an electronic system to ensure patient information was shared across all organisations.

She told the conference any changes they brought about would leave a legacy for patients and providers for years to come and urged them to turn yesterday’s discussions into action.

“Park your prejudices, have faith in each other, get it right for your population and listen to the feedback. It’s in your hands,” she said. “You will change the face of care across the whole of your patch – if you get out there and do it.”

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