Date Published 03 August 2012
Housing associations have a significant role to play in easing demand on the NHS and ensuring a better quality of life for terminally ill people, a leading figure in the care and support sector has argued.
Addressing delegates at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Older People’s Conference, Rachael Byrne, Home Group’s executive director of care and support, spoke on the topic of palliative care and helping people to die at home.
Ms Byrne discussed how Home Group’s care and support division Stonham established a pilot scheme called ‘A Good Death’ in 2011.
Early results from the scheme, which was run in the north east of England working alongside the NHS, Marie Curie, HIEC NE, Newcastle Science City, Public Health NE, Age UK and Newcastle University, suggest savings could be made by the NHS of almost £1,800 per person.
The savings come in addition to trying to achieve what 66% of people with terminal illnesses have expressed as a major desire – to spend as much time, and if possible die, at home with their family rather than in hospital.
Ms Byrne said: `The institutionalised ways we cope with dying do not align with how most of us aspire to die. Two thirds want to die at home with family and friends nearby, cared for, free from pain, with medical support available when needed.
`Yet, by 2030 65% will die in hospitals and care homes, cut off from friends and family, dependent on systems and procedures that feel impersonal and which too often offer them little dignity.`
Around 20% of NHS spending can be linked to end of life care and research shows that many patients nearing the end of their life become ‘Frequent Flyers’ regularly being admitted to hospitals.
Home Group established its ‘A Good Death’ scheme in response to the Government’s ‘A Good Death Charter’. The social housing provider has been looking at how to deliver a better quality of care while reducing the cost to the taxpayer.
Ms Byrne highlighted an example of how providing funding to improve one person’s home provided relief to NHS budgets.
She said: `We helped a 38 year old man with terminal bone cancer. He was in hospital but doctors refused to discharge him as his privately owned home was in a poor state of disrepair with damp problems. He was unable to return to his wife and two year old daughter.
`The typical cost of admission to hospital is £2,334 while a short stay is £549. With the support of ourselves and grants from Macmillan he was able to get the roof fixed at a cost of £3,500 and return home to his family.
`Since being at home his attendances at hospital have halved and he has seen a 10% reduction in pain relief medication. His well being and quality of life have increased significantly.`