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Palliative care – increase in demand predicted

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
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17th May 2017 – The number of people needing palliative care in England and Wales by 2040 is predicted to increase by at least 42%.

Palliative care is for patients with advanced disease and focusses on quality of life and relief of symptoms such as pain, and is designed to make a patient as comfortable as possible. It isn't only about end of life care but may be needed earlier if a patient has a long-term progressive illness.

Palliative care services can be provided by the NHS, your local council or a charity.

Increasing demand

According to new research published in the open access journal BMC Medicine, by 2040 at least 160,000 more people each year are likely to have palliative care needs, including pain management of chronic illnesses, and end of life care, either in hospitals or hospices, or at home.

The researchers estimate, using national data and based on current trends, that at least 85% of deaths in 2040 will require some form of palliative care, many because of dementia or cancer.

Implications

The researchers say if their predictions are correct then palliative care services need a lot more money spent on them over the next two decades to deal with the growing demand.

Professor Irene Higginson, co-author of the research paper says the need is urgent. She believes more attention should be given to the needs of patients and those close to them when facing progressive illness, frailty and dementia.

Underestimation

The authors say their estimates are a simplification of the issue and the real increase could be even higher.

Simon Chapman, director of policy and external affairs, at the National Council for Palliative Care told us by email: "This report shows that the numbers of people dying each year is on the rise and that their care needs are becoming increasingly complex. Significant expansion in palliative and end of life care services must be a key priority for the incoming government.

"However, this is not just a job for politicians, or the health and care system. Dying is not primarily a medical event but an inevitable part of living that affects every aspect of life. We need to change the way we deal with this as a society, recognise the role we all can play and empower people and communities to give practical help and support to each other through dying, death and bereavement. Our own research shows there is public appetite for this; we now need to make it happen."

Reviewed on May 18, 2017

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