Leeds launches novel approach to improving palliative and end-of-life care

People in Leeds are set to experience better palliative and end-of-life care as experts launch an unprecedented partnership approach to improving it, which will also help the city’s Covid-19 recovery.

More than 100 people from hospital and community-based health services, social care, care homes and voluntary and independent organisations are joining members of the Leeds Palliative Care Network at a series of events this month.

Using a ‘Whole System Approach’ (WSA), which has been developed in Leeds and rolled out nationally, they will work together to understand what needs to change in palliative and end-of-life services. This will help ensure people get the right care, in the right place at the right time.

They will focus on community services across the city – how they work with each other and with hospitals or hospices to best serve people’s and families’ needs.

Led by the Leeds Palliative Care Network and Leeds Beckett University, supported by Leeds Academic Health Partnership, they will review existing services to understand

  • how to better coordinate and link the different care services
  • how to enable high quality care at home if that is a person’s preference
  • how to design services to provide care in ways that Leeds’ people say they need

Dr Simon Stockill, medical director, NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, who is championing the work, said: “We know that around 6,800 people die each year in Leeds, three-quarters of whom would potentially benefit from palliative and end of life care.

“Around half of all deaths occur in hospital, which people tell us is their least preferred place to die. With up to 1,700 more patients each year potentially needing this type of care by 2040, there will be even more demand on services.

“Coupled with that, the pandemic has brought further pressures and challenges, particularly within palliative care services. So this new approach is vital for our city and for local people.

“By listening to them and to a wide range of professionals, we’re confident it will help us understand how to work differently and more efficiently with the resources we have. That will not only be vital to our city’s recovery from the virus but to a lasting transformation for those needing palliative and end-of-life care.”

Leeds Beckett University devised the ‘whole system’ approach in collaboration with Public Health England, local authorities and the Association of Directors of Public Health. It was originally designed as a way for local services and communities to work together to promote healthy weight and reduce levels of obesity. This is the first time the approach has been taken to improve end-of-life and palliative care.

Dr Duncan Radley, senior research fellow, Leeds Beckett University, said: “The WSA can be adapted for a range of public health and health and social care challenges. It provides a framework to understand how the local system is working currently, what changes can be made to better align current activities and services, and how new actions or activities will impact on the system and the various stakeholders.

“It’s a way of bringing together all stakeholders to get a common understanding of what is happening locally and ensure their viewpoints, resources and ideas contribute to improvements in the local system.”

The events this month will focus on aspects such as:

  • ensuring people have a single point of access to services and information
  • people have the best possible experience of moving between services and settings, such as hospices and hospitals
  • digital and remote support being effective and appropriate
  • the health and care workforce receiving whatever training is required
  • family support and bereavement services being effective, coordinated well and timely.

This new approach builds on work the Leeds Palliative Care Network has been supporting over the last few years.  That includes, producing a citywide strategy for palliative and end-of-life care – which partners support as a shared priority, ensuring people have advance care plans in place and ensuring better information sharing and reporting so that these changes can be evaluated.

Healthwatch Leeds wants to hear from people whose loved ones died in a hospice, at home or in a care home and about the end of life care and support that was given. Their short survey is online at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ZPCHJ66

They are also working with service users and carers to understand how the system supports people at the end of their life and where improvements could be made.

These insights will further inform the new whole systems approach. The results will be drawn together early next year to inform next steps. Part of that will be a detailed approach looking at how the system works in a particular area of the city for a specific group of people.

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