The last week of November proved to be very busy in the world of End of Life Care, with Social Care appearing prominently on the agenda. Supported by the Innovation Unit, a new project called Better Endings was launched in London and I felt privileged to be invited to represent Adult Social Care. Better Endings promises an interesting new collaborative approach to supporting people in their own communities.

On 1st December I returned to the London Borough of Redbridge to speak at its 3rd annual practitioners’ conference. It was great to both share the extensive work that the Redbridge Integrated Partnership has already achieved as well as discuss plans for local residents to help improve end of life experiences going forward. I offered a national perspective on what ADASS has done to bring social care to the forefront of change and improvement. 

Simon Pearce, Tristan Brice and I met to review the status of the National NHSE End of Life Care Programme and plan for the next 18 months. It was heartening to see how much we had already achieved but motivating to acknowledge the work yet to be done. I was delighted when the programme was adopted by the National ADASS Executive on 8th December and submitted to the National Board as evidence that things are improving. See below for a copy of the programme and please contact us about any related work that you are doing locally.

I had a very busy week before the winter break with the London ADASS Network in the morning and the National Board on the afternoon of 13th December. The next day saw the Pan London Alliance meet and we decided to continue operating in London but commit to more virtual work following great improvements in how the NHS, ADASS, voluntary sector and lay representatives coordinate and communicate with each other and relevant agencies. On the Friday I attended the first meeting of a new work stream for the London NHSE Clinical Leadership Group which aims to transform experience of EOLC in hospitals and the community. This reflects one of the National Board’s priorities and it was encouraging to see how focused colleagues were in trying to understand what needs to be done to improve and transform service delivery. If this subgroup works well together then any improvements should be clearly measurable.

Having attended a number of End of Life Care conferences and meetings over the past year, one thing that I have found especially encouraging is that the individual has finally been placed at the centre of discussions and proposals for change. We should not underestimate this major change in thinking and more importantly practice. Adult Social Care has for many years provided a person-centred approach, but the NHS has failed to until now. I believe the tide is changing at last, and I look forward to the coming year and myriad improvements to the support which people receive as they approach the end of their lives.

As 2016 drew to a close I heard a number of key challenges and quotes that I think we should embrace in the New Year. These sentiments inspire both thought and hard work as we collectively pursue all improvements to social care:

“Great care is a partnership.”

“Why do we pay less for residential and nursing care for older people than for other adult service user groups? Quality must be sacrificed in the last years of life as a result.”

“If you don’t take risks you can’t innovate.”

“Commissioning services must not come before the benefits of working in partnership.”

“Don’t be afraid to mix provider and commissioning roles if it means getting better quality services.”

“It’s refreshing to hear presentations that routinely speak about people at the centre of their plans and care.”

Finally, I would like to challenge each of you to find out when your local Health and Wellbeing Board last discussed the new NHSE System Transformation Plans (STPs) and made reference to the Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care: A National Framework for Local Action 2015-2020. If this has not happened in 2016 then make sure that you raise it with the Chair of your board and ask them why not. Failure to have these discussions is just not good enough.