Thousands of terminally ill in Wales 'not getting palliative care'

Hospital nurse on ward Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption A quarter of NHS bed days are occupied by someone in the last year of life, the study found

More than 6,000 people in Wales who would benefit from palliative care are not getting it, according to a report.

The study by the London School of Economics (LSE) said the UK's care system for patients with terminal illnesses needed a major overhaul.

Those with illnesses other than cancer, people aged over 85, and minority ethnic groups, are among those missing out, the report for Marie Curie added.

The Welsh government said it was investing more in end-of-life care.

The patients identified in the report, who also include people living in deprived areas, often fail to receive sufficient pain relief and respite, the report said.

Deaths in Wales

  • About 32,000 people die in Wales each year
  • Of these, more than 20,000 are aged 75 and over
  • The majority of deaths follow a period of chronic illness
  • Nearly a quarter of all NHS bed days in Wales are occupied by someone in the last year of life
  • Based on calculations in the 2011 Palliative Care Funding Review, 6,200 people in Wales who would benefit from palliative care are not getting it

Lead author Josie Dixon said the findings should raise concerns, since the need for palliative care was fast increasing as the population ages.

By 2037, the number of people aged 65 or over in Wales is predicted to increase by 40% to more than 878,000.

Ms Dixon said providing palliative care to those who need it could potentially generate net savings of at least £2m in Wales by preventing unwanted and distressing hospitalisations.

£7.4m funding

Dr Jane Collins, chief executive of Marie Curie, said: "We hope that this compelling evidence is a catalyst for change and used by policy makers and care providers to improve how all people with a terminal illness are cared for in the UK."

A Welsh government spokesman said: "In 2013, we published our Delivering End of Life Care Plan, which aims to reduce inequalities in end-of-life care and maintain an individual's dignity in their last days of life.

"Earlier this year we announced an additional £1m to support the delivery of this plan on top of the £6.4m funding package for 2015-16 to support hospices and to provide palliative care across Wales.

"This will ensure specialist consultant, nursing and other health support for palliative care is available in all parts of Wales."

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