Dr David Crichton’s blog: Helping improve end of life patient care

This is a transcript of my My View column that was published in the Doncaster Star on Monday 26 September, 2016

As a doctor I have an interest in all aspects of healthcare, but I have a particular passion for helping improve the care we provide for Doncaster people who are nearing the end of their life.

Everyone deserves a good death and, though that may seem an unusual term to use, it’s something that needs to be acknowledged. We can’t live for ever, so when the time comes it’s important that our wishes are taken into account and that local services are able to meet our individual needs.

End of life care used to be a Cinderella service in Doncaster but thanks to a concerted effort by a number of individuals and local organisations, helped by over £500,000 investment by the local NHS and St John’s Hospice Appeal, it has come on in leaps and bounds in the last three years.

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Dr Crichton at St John’s Hospice with Consultant in Palliative Medicine Dr Lucy Adkinson and Specialist Nurse Consultant Heidi Atkinson.

I saw the fruits of that hard work last week, when I was invited to St John’s Hospice, Balby, to speak at the launch of the Doncaster Community Specialist Palliative Care Service, which strives to make care even better for terminally ill Doncaster people and by helping support their families. It has brought together a range of services involved with end of life care and made them more accessible via a single telephone number. By replacing a number of different phone numbers, it is much easier and simpler for local GPs and other professionals to quickly get advice and support for patients with specialist care needs in the last days of life.

Patients already referred to hospice services – and their carers – can also contact the service if they have problems or need further advice.

Importantly, help and support is now available around the clock, every day of the year, with the service being provided from St John’s Hospice during daytime and via an on-call consultant at Doncaster Royal Infirmary outside those hours.

This new single point of access number applies to referrals to a suite of important local services: The Community Specialist Palliative Care Team (previously known as Macmillan and Hospice at Home teams); outpatient clinics; day hospice; St John’s Hospice inpatient unit; signposting to counselling and bereavement support; and clinical advice and support.

Patients who need end of life care often have specific problems, such as pain or breathing issues, which often need extra help to manage. The duty clinician taking the call uses their experience and expertise to assess the patient’s needs and decide what type of care they need at that point in time. There’s a range of options, including additional care provided at home or being cared for at the hospice if needed.

There is also a lot of supported training taking place at numerous Doncaster’s GP surgeries to improve the consistency and quality of end of life care within our communities by following best practice standards.
The aim is to help people live well until they die.

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