Worcestershire Palliative and End of Life Care Network

Worcestershire Palliative and End of Life Care Network - Organizations working in partnership to support people live well till the end of their lives.

Every year over 10,000 people in Worcestershire die and many more are diagnosed with cancer and other serious conditions. Thankfully and increasingly a cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence but the process can be very traumatic. For some life expectancy is very limited whilst others live many years with complex problems and frailty.

This can be a very lonely process for people and their families but there is a large number of organisations in the county who can support people at this time.

These organisations come together on a regular basis to form the Worcestershire Palliative and End of Life Care network to share experiences, good practice and resources to improve Palliative and End of life services for all.

The term ‘Palliative Care’ refers to helping people to live as well as possible whilst experiencing serious illness and is focused on comfort and symptom control rather than cure. The ‘End of Life’ in this context usually refers to the period of approximately a year prior to death – which can be very difficult to predict – especially in older people living with frailty.

An awareness that someone is approaching the end can be very helpful in enabling them to make plans and to discuss with those around them their preferences for intervention when very much sicker. This process is called Advance Care Planning and is an essential part of End of Life support and awareness.

The Network brings together representatives from all four hospices in the county ( Acorns, Kemp, Primrose and St Richards) , the Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust ( who run Worcestershire Royal Kidderminster and the Alexandra Hospitals) and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust who run all the community hospitals and the community services (District Nurses etc) as well as General Practice, Care Homes, Marie Curie Care, Macmillan, the Ambulance Service Worcestershire Association for Carers, the Clinical Commissioning groups and the County Council.

The role of the network is to get people around the table to share good practice, to enhance knowledge and encourage innovation, to guide commissioning decisions and to work together with the aim of providing a consistent approach for patients and their carers/family members across organizational boundaries.

In recent years the network has led on the development of county wide policies on Advance care Planning, has delivered a web-based electronic platform for the sharing of Palliative and End of Life Care information about patients when they have given their consent – and has influenced the widening of the approach to include all those approaching the ends of their lives for all reasons not just those suffering with cancer.

We have secured investment in the provision of 7 day a week access to Palliative Care Nurses and in education for staff across all services and professions. We have lead the introduction of ‘Just in Case Boxes’ and anticipatory prescribing of medication to ensure that people have access to symptom controlling medication at night and at weekends when they develop an urgent need.
In response to the National Framework- Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care1 -the Network has developed a local framework of local action to deliver the ambitions of the county to improve care for all.

There are six ambitions – that each person is seen as an individual – that each person gets fair access to care – to maximize comfort and wellbeing – that care is coordinated – that all staff are prepared to care and each community is prepared to help.

By working together and by pooling resources we are optimistic that we can achieve our ambition to continue to improve care for all people in Worcestershire approaching the end of their lives despite the very challenging pressures on the current system.

1 National Palliative and End of Life Care Partnership 2015 http://endoflifecareambitions.org.uk/