Dr Nick Tupper blog: If you die, then it should be a ‘good death’

nicktupperThe American scientist Benjamin Franklin famously said there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes.

You will often hear people talking, or complaining, about taxes but death is rarely spoken about. It’s almost a taboo subject. I’d like to see that change in Doncaster so death can openly be talked about and planned for, just as it is in many other cultures.

When a close GP colleague of mine died, the minister at his funeral spoke about his ‘good death’ after a terminal illness. This was because he was able to make arrangements to die at home, surrounded by his family, and with the support of local health and social care services.

A ‘good death’ may seem an unusual term to use, as losing someone close to you is an upsetting experience. But I would like to see it become part of our local language and spoken about freely.

At NHS Doncaster CCG we’re taking forward plans to improve local end-of-life care, working with the borough’s two health trusts.

We want more people to make informed, active decisions about their end-of- life care and place of death. Around 3,000 Doncastrians die every year.

Currently, over half of those deaths take place in hospital because a dedicated social care service has not been available to help out if they have wanted to end their days at home.

But this week a new team of home care workers is being launched who will initially help to look after Doncaster people who are in the last few days of their lives.

Acting on referrals from healthcare professionals, the Woodfield 24 Care Services staff will be called in – often at very short notice – to provide care and support to those who want to die at home rather than at hospital or in a hospice.

The staff are employed by Flourish Enterprises, a not-for-profit social enterprise organisation which is a subsidiary of the Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, which is based at Balby.

They will go into patients’ homes and help out with everyday household needs, working as a team alongside district nurses and other community staff.

They could, for example, help with feeding and washing the person, or by providing night sitting support to give their family some rest.

It will eventually be extended to include those who are in the final few weeks of their lives.

There will be many other tasks they could help with as well, such as taking the family dog for a walk if necessary.

The key aim of the service is to look after a patient’s social care needs while the nursing teams provide the clinical care.

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