Hospice service leaders in Bucks say they need to prepare now for a coming spike in demand, as the number people living to older age in the UK starts to rise sharply over the next few years.
As a result, from 2015, the annual number of deaths in the UK will also start to rise, figures from the Office for National Statistics show. And as the proportion of older people rises, researchers say it will become ‘essential’ to increase the provision of hospice care to meet the needs of this group of people.
A 2013 study into future needs for hospice services has highlighted the ‘escalating demand’ for palliative care that an ageing population will create.
Hospice charities, including Rennie Grove Hospice Care, have chosen Hospice Care Week, which runs from today, to highlight the coming growth in demand, and to stress the importance of local planning for the surge in patient numbers.
Sue Varvel, director of nursing and clinical services at Rennie Grove, and current chair of Buckinghamshire Palliative Care Provider Board, said: “We know that in the next few years there will be a significant rise in the numbers of people needing palliative care.
“Many of these people will be living into their ninth and tenth decades, often with complex health conditions. They will need high quality palliative care as they approach the end of life.
“Care providers need to work closely with local Clinical Commissioning Groups to secure as much funding as possible for palliative care services. ”
The annual number of deaths in the UK has been steadying in recent years, but will start to rise in 2015, according to national projections. At the same time, the statistics point to a ‘dramatic increase’ in the number of older people in the UK, and a corresponding sharp rise in demand for hospice and other palliative care services.
Rennie Grove chairman of trustees, Stephen Spiro said: “These predictions match our own experience. Demand for our hospice at home and day hospice services continues to grow each year, and our nurses are looking after patients who are living longer with increasingly complex illnesses.
“However, the annual growth in patient referrals slowed a little last year and this matches the current national picture of a falling death rate. The number of deaths in the UK is set to start rising in 2015, and that’s when we expect to face the beginning of a period of dramatically increased need for our services.”
Rennie Grove seeks to enable people with life-limiting illnesses to remain at home with their families for as long as possible, and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.
Sue added: “Most people, when asked, say they would prefer to die at home, but, sadly, across the country that aspiration is not matched by experience. At Rennie Grove, our 24-hour on-call hospice at home service enables 65 per cent of our patients to die at home. However, across the nation as a whole, the number of people dying at home is only 25%.”