Call to hasten hospice help

Palliative care nurse specialist manager Jo Carby
Palliative care nurse specialist manager Jo Carby

The borough’s hospice says more could still be done to ensure residents get the care they need at the end of their lives following a major report.

Wigan and Leigh Hospice (WLH) spoke after Hospice UK found patients with incurable conditions still need to be referred quicker by other health bodies so they receive timely pallative care.

The report found a north-south divide in referrals, with people in the north only getting in touch with a hospice 35 days before death compared to 55 days down south.

Cancer patients, on average, received 53 days of hospice care before their deaths, while those battling other life-limiting diseases only got around 27 days of help from the charities.

Older patients also tend to receive less hospice care, with patients aged under 50 years getting 78 days, compared to 59 days for 50 to 75-year-olds and 39 days for over-75s.

While WLH was quick to point out it has developed excellent links with many medical professionals in the borough and recent years has seem improved working with the NHS and other health bodies it also made clear there is always room for improvement.

Clinical director Jo Carby said: “In Wigan borough we work closely with other health and social care services to inform them about the kinds of patients we can support and how and when to refer them.

“However, we know that there are still many people in the borough who could benefit from hospice care but do not receive it or are referred to us too late when an earlier referral could have made a huge difference to their quality of life.”

“Unfortunately many people still think that hospices are for people in the last few days or weeks of life.

“At the Oak Centre at Wigan and Leigh Hospice we accept patients from diagnosis of a palliative condition onwards in order to provide seamless support from an early stage. The centre welcomes people who are at a stage where they are still active, independent and want to make the most out of life. However, when they need further support they will be referred to other hospice services, such as our community nursing teams.”

Hospice UK says research shows patients with progressive diseases should be referred for palliative care between three and six months before they die to benefit fully. But hospices have limited control over the referrals they receive from other health services.