LABOUR ROUND-UP 'Integration' is key for end of life patients

Published: 06/10/2005 Volume 115 No. 5976 Page 12

The government must ensure the forthcoming white paper on healthcare outside hospitals improves palliative services through integration and better education and training for carers and clinicians, campaigners say.

A group of leading voluntary sector organisations that campaign for better services for people with terminal illnesses, including Marie Curie Cancer Care and the British Heart Foundation, are drawing up a joint response to the white paper consultation.

Improving 'end of life' care is set to be a major theme covered by the white paper which is scheduled to be published 'at the turn of the year' following the current major public consultation Your Health, Your Care, Your Say.

The government also promised to 'double investment' in palliative care for cancer patients in its May 2005 election manifesto.

Speaking at a Labour Party conference Health Hotel fringe debate on 'tackling inequalities in end of life care', Marie Curie chief executive Tom Hughes-Hallett said his organisation was taking a collaborative approach with other campaigners to secure better care for all terminally ill patients - not just those with cancer.

'When we read the word 'cancer' in the manifesto commitment to double investment in palliative care we regarded it as a misprint, ' he said. Mr Hughes said the group of organisations were coordinating a response to the consultation through the National Council of Palliative Care, particularly 'given the tight timetable'.

Mr Hughes said if the white paper only got one thing right for end of life patients and their carers it would be 'integration, integration, integration'.

Last month NHS director of delivery John Bacon said the£250m saved via the forthcoming structural reconfiguration would go to local health economies to spend on the manifesto priorities, 'principally cancer and palliative care, rather than through a centrally determined reallocation of funds'.

At a separate fringe meeting, former Commons health select committee chair David Hinchliffe called on the government to remove the divide between health and social care in order to divert more money to caring for those with long-term conditions. He told a fringe meeting that the white paper should get rid of the structural divide.