A privilege to provide palliative care

13 February 2020
3 min read
Volume 29 · Issue 3

I am privileged to be Chief Executive of one of the largest and oldest hospices in the UK. I say to anyone who will listen that it's the best job in the world. But that doesn't mean it's always easy; as a registered nurse and health visitor I am fully aware of the challenges facing the profession as a whole. One of the biggest we face is the expected 40% increase in demand for palliative care services over the next 25 years, with dementia cases predicted to surpass those of cancer by 2040. People are living longer because of the great strides in cancer treatment, which must be applauded, but it brings with it a corresponding need to adapt our model of care. Our health service is already struggling to meet the requirements of patients—add into the mix a shortage of nurses, then it's easy to see the potential impact.

When our very own hospice pioneers were faced with poverty-associated diseases such as tuberculosis, 120 years ago, care was solely focused on making people comfortable at the very end of life. Today modern hospice care, pioneered by Dame Cicely Saunders, who gained much of her early palliative care experience and learning working at St Joseph's Hospice, encompasses all of a person's physical, psychological, social, spiritual and practical struggles. Hospices now support people much earlier in their diagnosis in a holistic way so that they have as good a quality of life as possible. Our care goes beyond the patient to their family, to prepare them for the impending loss of their loved one, then supporting them once bereaved.

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