Dying Matters Awareness week underlines why planning for end of life is so crucial

GPs from across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are supporting Dying Matters Awareness Week.

The week runs until Sunday and draws attention to the importance of planning something that will happen to us all – the end of life.

It encourages people to talk about issues ranging from making a will to discussing funeral arrangements.

But doctors are especially concerned about making sure that plans are in place for patients who are nearing the end of life to be able to die as they would wish.

Dr Mo Huda, a Rugeley GP, Chair and End of Life Clinical Lead for Cannock Chase CCG said: “It can be an uncomfortable subject but it is something that GPs have to deal with as part of our day-to-day job.

“Far few people talk about end of life, and that can make planning difficult. We want to make sure that everyone has their wishes respected and can reach the end of their life in the place they would wish, which is often at home, in as much comfort and with as much dignity as possible.

“To do this we work with a range of NHS health professionals, the hospice movement who are not part of the NHS, caring organisations, but most importantly patients and their loved ones.”

Events are being held around Staffordshire to mark Dying Matters Awareness Week. They can be found at the Dying Matters website

Case Study

A patient who was an older lady born with multiple profound learning disabilities.

She had lived in a supported living care home in Staffordshire for over 25 years. She was unable to communicate verbally, but was able to communicate with long-term carers who knew her well using body language and eye and facial movements

In late 2017 she was nearing the end of her life. Her condition deteriorated and she was admitted to an older adults ward at Royal Stoke University Hospital.

Kieran Uttley, an Acute Liaison Nurse for Learning Disabilities at Royal Stoke explained: “We offered ward staff support and advice about her complex needs and how she displayed pain. Being in unfamiliar surroundings was also a concern.

“The patient’s brother and the health professionals from the palliative care team thought she would like to pass away at home where she had lived for so many years.

“This presented many difficulties but with a multi-disciplinary effort involving carers medics and nurses from the ward staff, palliative care nurses, hospice staff and the GP we were able to arrange this. Her carers and loved ones were fully aware and engaged in end of life care planning.

“Support was brought into the home from Dougie Mac Hospice, with staff able to offer around the clock support and working with district nurses and other health professionals.

“The patient was regularly reviewed by the hospital’s palliative care team and supported with communication, pain recognition and any care co-ordination difficulties.

“She passed away peacefully in January 2018 at home where she had lived for many years with carers she knew well beside her.”

“Afterwards the manager of the care home said, ‘I have to say that I think this role has been needed for so long, it’s like the missing link’.”

Case study ends

Kieran is among the organisers of a Dying Matters Awareness Week Coffee Morning which takes place from 11am-2pm on Friday May 18 which everyone is welcome to attend. Venue is Broom Street Resource Centre, Hanley, ST1 2EW.

It aims to raise awareness of end of life, palliative care and bereavement amongst adults with learning disabilities, their loved ones and carers.

There will be stands from Douglas Macmillan Hospice, Dove Counselling Service and Macmillan Cancer Support.