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Government needs to examine palliative care

22nd September 2005

The government needs to pay more attention to giving terminally ill people a real choice in palliative care, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Steve Webb has said.

Speaking at a lunchtime fringe organised by Marie Curie Cancer Care, The British Heart Foundation and the Parkinson's Disease Society, Professor Webb said people do not always realise what choices they have, and there is a real need to ensure that patients were aware that they do have a choice when it comes to end of life care.

Professor Webb criticised the co-ordination between different agencies within the healthcare sector, and said this often leads to terminally ill patients spending the last year of their life 'shunted between different sectors'.

Robert Meadowcroft, director of policy at The Parkinson’s Disease Society added that many thousands of people die every year from terminal diseases that were not cancer-related. These people could greatly benefit from the same kind of palliative care given to cancer sufferers, but were often excluded purely because of their diagnosis.

‘End of life issues are a major concern’, he said.

He mentioned that, for people with Parkinson’s, ‘palliation comes at diagnosis’ and as the disease progressed it became more difficult to manage the related conditions.

A recent survey conducted by Marie Curie Cancer Care found that 65 per cent of people would prefer to die at home, but in reality only 20 per cent actually did, with 17 per cent in hospices and 12 per cent in care homes.

Dr Teresa Tate medical director at Marie Curie Cancer Care said there were tremendous inequalities in palliative care provision and said those in power should ask themselves why 'the figures are so different to people's wishes'.