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Political parties commit to improving end of life care

For the past 12 months, Cicely Saunders International has been working in partnership with six other charities interested in palliative and end of life care - Hospice UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, the National Council for Palliative Care and Sue Ryder. 

The aim of this End of Life Coalition group was to call on the next Government to ensure that people are able to access better quality care and support as they approach the end of their lives.

The group initially produced a manifesto briefing that highlighted the crisis facing the terminally ill and their carers, and identified what they believed were the most important barriers to improving care for the dying.

Since publishing the briefing, The End of Life Coalition has been working hard to raise awareness of the problems faced by the terminally ill, through meetings with politicians and policy makers, and by using traditional and social media to inform the public.

One of the important issues highlighted in the manifesto briefing was that only a very small proportion of research funding - around 0.1% (or 10p in every £100) - is allocated to palliative and end of life care in the UK1. But that money spent on this type of research provides important evidence as to how end of life care can be improved, and how better care can also reduce the pressure on the NHS.

Research at the Cicely Saunders Institute has found that providing palliative care in the community doubles patients’ odds of dying at home (where most people would prefer to die) and reduces symptom burden without impacting on caregiver grief2. In addition palliative care halves the odds of patients attending A&E in the last month of life3. However, further research is urgently required to identify the best models of care and how to deliver them. 

Dr Katherine Sleeman, Clinical Lecturer at the Cicely Saunders Institute commented ‘We are delighted that all five major UK-wide political parties have included a commitment to improving care for the terminally ill in their manifestos. We urge the parties to set out exactly how they will deliver their manifesto commitments to improve the care of the terminally ill, and we hope that the next Parliament, however it is composed, will continue to prioritise care of the dying.’


1 Sleeman KE, Gomes B, Higginson IJ. Research into end-of-life cancer care--investment is needed. Lancet. 2012 Feb 11;379(9815):519.

2 Gomes B, Calanzani N, Curiale V, McCrone P, Higginson IJ. Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of home palliative care services for adults with advanced illness and their caregivers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 6.

3 Henson LA, Gao W, Higginson IJ, Smith M, Davies JM, Ellis-Smith C, Daveson BA. Emergency department attendance by patients with cancer in their last month of life: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Oncol. 2015 Feb 1;33(4):370-6.