Today, the government has published an independent report which recognises that heart patients are not receiving good enough care at the end of their lives and it recommends steps to change this.
The report, which recommends how greater choice in end of life care can be achieved, highlights that people with cardiovascular disease (CVD) receive worse care at the end of their lives than people with other conditions such as cancer.
It also highlights that CVD patients are less likely to die in their preferred place.
We welcome the report and agrees that people must be identified as approaching the end of their life so they can be given choice on where they want to die and the types of care and support they would like to receive.
People with heart failure, however, can show signs of being at the end of life for over a year, whilst others can die suddenly without warning.
The report explains that this uncertain trajectory leads to reluctance amongst clinicians to discuss the end of life with patients with heart failure, fearing they may cause premature alarm and destroy hope. This leads to poor identification of people with CVD as being at the end of life.
To stop this from happening, the report recommends improved training in identification and communication at the end of life for care professionals.
We run a pilot scheme in Glasgow with Marie Curie Cancer Care and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to provide better end of life care for patients with heart failure.
The ‘Caring Together’ programme, highlighted in the report as an example of good practice, has shown that by assessing patients against certain criteria, heart failure specialist nurses can identify a significant proportion of those entering the end of life phase of their illness.
This means conversations can be had about where and how they would like to be cared for at the end of their lives. As a result, patients are more likely to be cared for and die in their preferred place
Mike Hobday, our Director of Policy and who was on the review board for the report, said: “We’ve known for a long time that heart failure patients are getting a raw deal in their end of life care.
“We welcome the report and the focus on giving patients more choice in their end of life care and now health providers must act urgently to ensure that people living with cardiovascular disease are given a choice.
“Our programme in Glasgow has shown the way forward by working with heart patients, family members and carers to develop plans for their end of their life care.
“We are glad that the Minister highlighted the need to improve identification of people at the end of life and we now need health providers to make this happen.”