Dying Matters Week – a great opportunity for us all to reflect on our own awareness around the topic of death.

As part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, Chief Executive Julie Gillon reflects on the importance of getting end of life care right, to make the experience easier for patients, family, friends and clinicians delivering care to people in their final moments.

“This week is national Dying Matters Week and is a great opportunity for us all to reflect on our own awareness around the topic of death.

It is no coincidence that it runs alongside Mental Health Awareness Week – if we get end of life care right, it makes the whole experience easier for patients, family and friends alike, not least for you, the clinicians delivering care to these people in their final moments.

As a Trust, we are thought leaders when it comes to this pathway. We have a fantastic Palliative care team who are involved with patients at the earliest opportunity. My plea to you is to ensure that you are getting the team involved every single time – it starts as a simple conversation that makes the journey easier for everyone further down the line.

We have had excellent representation and success within our Specialist Palliative Care senior nursing team. Mel McEvoy, Nurse Consultant in Palliative Care recently received a finalist award in the national Kate Granger Awards for his work. John Sheridan, Macmillan Lead Nurse for End of Life Care currently sits on the national AMBER care bundle Strategic Group. He is also a Clinical Advisor to the Lead Nurse for End of Life at NHS Improvement around the development of a National End of Life Care Practitioner Network. We are not only leading regionally, but we are influencing the national agenda, and that’s something we should be proud of.

Following a pilot last year, we are now developing plans to use the AMBER care bundle across our organisation to support patients who have an uncertain recovery, despite active treatment for their illness or condition.  Despite tailored treatment and additional symptom support, sometimes recovery from illness or disease can be uncertain or limited.  In these situations, using the AMBER care bundle to support the decision making around our patients and to help us consider how we should communicate with them around the planning of their care is the right thing to do. Our pilot work has been recognised by the national strategic team, who have recently asked me to be an Ambassador Chief Executive, something I have whole heartedly welcomed.

In addition to this work, the organisation continues to develop palliative and end of life care delivery, empowering senior nurses and therapists to complete Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) forms for patients who they care for. This is just one element of Advance Care Planning we are adapting to improve the quality of care for patients as part of the regional Deciding Right approach.  Together with the development of ‘Palliative Care Role Champions’ across the organisation, we are establishing a working model for future care planning with our patients and their loved ones.

It is essential that we integrate this open discussion into our daily core business, to ensure patients receive the best care in the best place.  Of course, this will involve challenging and difficult conversations, but it will support patients and those close to them to make choices in partnership with their clinicians. Our duty to have honest, open and meaningful conversations around treatment options and patient preference is central to our Trust value of ‘putting people first’.

For Dying Matters Week, this year’s theme is ‘Are you ready?’ and I would like to put that question to you all. On a professional and a personal level, are you ready to start having the conversation and overcome the stigma that surrounds death to achieve better care for all?”

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