Tackling taboos to improve the end of life care

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HEALTH officials are raising awareness of a “taboo” subject - dying - in the hope as many people as possible hear about a new service which will allow hundreds more people to die at home rather than in hospital.

A conference in Hull, attended by Macmillan’s national president Lady Halifax, heard about the city being chosen as one of six in the UK to run a new “care at home” service.

It means that people in the last stages of their life can get intensive support at home - in some cases round-the-clock care - including treatments that would normally only be given in hospital.

Pam Brazier, whose husband Tony, 67, died at home last August from throat cancer, said: “If I hadn’t had that support, I wouldn’t have coped and Tony would have spent his last days in hospital.

“Tony wanted to die at home - he had been in and out of hospital for so long, I think he just had enough of it. He wanted to be surrounded by his home comforts.

“The Macmillan team helped make that happen and I cannot praise them enough. The team were like friends and they always said they weren’t just there for Tony, they were there for me as the carer too and that made such a difference.”

Based on a Swedish model of advanced home care, the team includes three doctors working with nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

Every month the scheme, run by City Health Care Partnership together with Macmillan Cancer Support, supports around 60 or 70 people nearing the end of their lives.

Angie Orr, senior operations manager for end of life care for City Health Care Partnership, said: “End of life care is still a taboo subject.

“People don’t want to engage with it till they meet it and sometimes it is a bit of a panic situation.”

Mrs Orr, who was one of the speakers at yesterday’s conference at the Mercure Royal Station Hotel, marking the project’s official launch, added: “This is about letting people know we are here, that we can do all these things and that people can die at home if they wish.

“We want to reach out to all people, whatever faith, colour, background, where they live it doesn’t matter.

“We want everybody to be involved with our service.

“One of the biggest parts of the project is to get early referrals; we can develop better relationships if we know them and their family earlier.”

All the patients they had looked after since last April were able to die where they chose, she said.

Although the vast majority of people in the city want to die at home or a hospice, less than one in five people did so in 2008. But since the beginning of the new service the figure - which also covers people who die suddenly in accidents and from heart attacks and strokes - has shot up to 46 per cent. The programme will run until 2016 when it will be evaluated by academics from Nottingham University.