A NEW REPORT from end of life charity Marie Curie details the urgent need to improve and grow support for people at the end of life. Currently, one in four people in the UK dies without the care and support they need at the end of life. 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.

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 will not get the support they need if the system does not change.

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 per cent 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, and carers.
  • 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 explained how the charity intends to be part of the solution to improve the situation 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, celebrated its 75th anniversary on 6 June. Since its inception in 1948 it has worked closely with the NHS to deliver palliative care and support to people and families across the UK.

The need for palliative care 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.

Marie Curie offers services such as Rapid Response, which provides urgent hands-on care and helps to reduce the risk of unplanned hospital admissions, 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 continued: “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.”

Marie Curie Support Line staff can provide practical information on everything from managing day-to-day with a terminal illness, to planning for end of life. They can offer emotional support if someone needs a safe space to talk, or some guidance based on their situation. There is also a dedicated bereavement service where callers will be paired with a volunteer, who can offer a listening ear and support over six sessions, as well as Check-in and Chat, a service that offers regular calls at a time that suits you. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones. Call 0800 090 2309.

* Read How many people need palliative care? here.

* Source: Marie Curie