Dr Dan Poulter is the Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, and a member of the Health Select Committee. Stuart Carroll is a senior health economist and Chairman of the Bow Group Health and Education Policy Committee. Here they summarise their research paper, which they will be publishing next week, that calls on the Government to develop a new framework to support the hospice movement.
As the old aphorism goes, nothing is certain but death and taxes. Given the current economic climate and the UK’s eye-watering budget deficit, the latter could hardly be less true even with George Osborne as Chancellor. The former remains not just an inevitability of life, but a key policy consideration for any society. Dignity in death and the provision of proper end of life care remain amongst some of the most emotive and important issues topping the priority list of many individuals and their families.
It is from this critical perspective that the role of the hospice movement, and hospice care, can be considered a central policy issue. Just like the UK’s pension “time bomb”, there is significant scope for a “healthcare time bomb” as more and more people require end of life care. Moreover, it is an economic imperative as governments of all colours and persuasions continue to grapple with the basic health economic problem – infinite healthcare demands but finite healthcare resources – which is now evermore acute in the current age of financial austerity. Ensuring people spend less time in hospital and more time in home, social and/or hospice care does not simply constitute good health and social policy, but also sound economic policy.
Hospice care is open to all helping people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses such as neurological conditions, HIV, and heart and lung conditions. Hospices also provide care and support for children and young people who have life limiting or life threatening conditions. In our forthcoming research paper, we review arrangements pertaining to palliative and end of life care in the general sense to examine the role of hospice care and how this can be better integrated and improved. The purpose of our research paper is to provide a clear overview of current landscape and to provide recommendations on how policy can best be shaped in future.