David Oxenham: Marie Curie can help keep people out of hospital

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THE care we receive in the final weeks or months of our lives is a highly emotive and important subject. Most of us will have a preference for where we would like to die and how we would like to be cared for, but how can we be sure those preferences will be adhered to?

The recommendations in the Scottish Government’s action plan Living and Dying Well have begun to give more patients the opportunity to think through these important issues so their wishes can be respected.

However, this continues to be challenging. That’s why we are taking the lessons we have gained from patients with cancer to understand what this means for people dying from other diseases.

We know that Marie Curie’s Nursing Service improves care for terminally ill people and their families. The evidence shows that the people we care for are more likely to die at home and less likely to have an emergency admission to hospital.

By keeping people out of hospital, we can not only help them to achieve as comfortable a death as possible, but we can also help to reduce costs to the NHS.

We should therefore be supporting patients and their families to make choices about what they want and ensuring the best possible quality of care is available outside the hospital setting.

We also know that the provision of good quality end-of-life care varies greatly and that people often struggle to make decisions about their own care. That’s why we are working closely with policy makers and health professionals in Scotland, and across the UK, to ensure that they understand the real need and provision for people who are nearing the end of their lives.

• Dr David Oxenham is clinical director of Marie Curie Cancer Care

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