New survey asks ‘what is a good death?’

TALKINGPOINTS-2Doncaster health chiefs are tackling what’s often seen as a taboo subject by asking local people to tell them what makes a good death.

A newly launched survey by NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is aiming to find out the healthcare issues that are important at the end of life.

Research suggests that many people put off discussing the ‘d-word’ with their loved-ones – it’s a topic they will go to great lengths to avoid.

“But it’s an important subject we should all confront, as a good death should be part of a good life” said CCG Chair Dr Nick Tupper.

“We’re responsible for organising and funding the NHS services that Doncaster people need and end of life care is really important to us. We want to find out what matters to people so we can try to provide local services that meet their preferred choices.”

Dr Tupper’s comments follow a recent study by national charity, the Dying Matters Coalition, which found that millions of Britons risk missing out on having their end of life wishes met because they haven’t planned for their death.

The charity says that, although a third of British adults think about dying and death at least once a week, nearly three-quarters of the public believe that people in Britain are uncomfortable discussing dying, death and bereavement.

Released to coincide with this month’s (May) Dying Matters Awareness Week, the research revealed that most people thought the most important factor to ensure a good death was being pain-free (33%), followed by: being with family and friends (17%), retaining your dignity (13%) and being cared for and able to die in the place of your choice (5%).

NHS Doncaster CCG has produced a short survey, asking local residents similar questions. It can be completed online in a few minutes by visiting the home page at

Dr Lindsey Britten, a Doncaster GP who is taking forward the development of end of life services for the CCG, said: “Around 3,000 Doncaster people die every year and currently over half of those deaths take place in hospital. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that by being more proactive in planning care at this stage of life we can enhance the quality of life of patients as well as improving the experience for them, their friends and family. We want to extend services into the community to enable people to die in the comfort of their own home with family and friends around them.

“A key marker of our success in transforming local services will be to reduce the percentage of patients who die in hospital, so it is in line with the national average,  by providing high quality responsive services in the home or usual place of residence.

“We want people to be able to make informed, active decisions about their end of life care and place of death. It’s vital that they are offered choice and control over the things that are important to them at what is a point of maximum vulnerability in their lives.”

The CCG is working with hospital and community-based organisations to look at ways of improving end of life care and is funding newly launched Woodfield 24 Care Services, a team of home care workers who look after Doncaster people who are in the last  days of their lives. Acting on referrals from healthcare professionals they are called in – often at very short notice – to provide care and support to terminally ill people who want to die at home rather than at hospital or in a hospice.

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