Mountbatten, the Isle of Wight’s end of life care charity, is responding to a national study which has looked at how soon people were referred to hospice care after being diagnosed with diseases such as dementia, liver and heart failure and stroke.
Researchers from the University of Leeds looked at data from 64 hospices (not including Mountbatten). They examined the records of over 42,000 people who died in 2015 with a progressive, advanced disease, after receiving community or inpatient palliative care.
The study found that cancer patients were referred for hospice care around 53 days prior to death, whilst for non-cancer patients, referral happened around 27 days prior. The research shows that many people in the UK are not accessing palliative care early enough, and there are significant differences in when they are referred for care, depending on the person’s disease, where they live and how old they are.
Mountbatten’s mission is to ensure more Islanders are able to access its services much sooner in their illness, with notable progress already being made, thanks to a number of new projects. Figures show that the average length of hospice care prior to death for Mountbatten in the last financial year was 61 days, although this is expected to improve as new projects become further embedded.
Liz Arnold, Director of Nursing at Mountbatten, said:
“We have worked really hard over the last couple of years to ensure that we can support Islanders much earlier in their illness. Many of our new services are already helping us to reach out to people who we wouldn’t previously have known about or who wouldn’t have been able to benefit from our support.
“It is so important that we continue to work with other health and social care professionals so that they understand more fully what we do, and how we can support their patients much sooner once they have been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition, or even if they are older and frail with a number of long term conditions.”
New services that have contributed to more support for more Islanders have included:
Mountbatten Coordination Centre
Since its launch in January 2018, GPs and other health professionals have been encouraged to refer people with life limiting illness, including those who are frail and elderly, have dementia, heart and liver failure and motor neurone disease (MND), to Mountbatten much sooner in their diagnosis. The new centre means Mountbatten has been able to start supporting Islanders who may have five or fewer years left to live, therefore allowing people to receive care in the last years of life rather than the last weeks and days. Within the next year, the Mountbatten Coordination Centre aims to reach an additional 500 Islanders so that they can be linked in to Mountbatten services and, as concerns and issues arise, phone for advice and additional support as well as benefit from group activities and Mountbatten’s social programme.
Domiciliary Care Service
Part of the Mountbatten at Home service, Mountbatten Carers work alongside Mountbatten Nurses to provide personal care in people’s homes. This rapidly growing service means that on any one day, Mountbatten at Home supports more than 650 people in their own homes across the Isle of Wight. The domiciliary care service allows people who are dying to remain at home, should they wish, by providing personal care such as help with washing and dressing and taking medication. Supporting people in the Island community in this way means they have better and earlier access to care that they might not previously have had.
Mountbatten has been able to intervene sooner when people who are dying are admitted to hospital to ensure they can gain access to Mountbatten’s expertise in end of life care. Since this service was introduced nine months ago, nearly 90 people have been quickly discharged from hospital to their preferred place of care, for example to their own home or care home. This service has again improved access to hospice care by identifying people in hospital who might benefit from Mountbatten’s support at home or in other community locations much sooner and more quickly than they would otherwise have done.
Mountbatten recognises that dementia is a life-limiting illness and, with the addition of its Admiral Nurse service, has been able to find and support more people and their families coping with advanced dementia. This has included providing access to music and art therapy, as well as group activities for people with the dementia and their families to keep them active and tackle isolation. Since September last year, over 50 additional people have received this support with a number of others also receiving support through a carers’ group.
The Heartbeat Project supports people living with heart failure and provides clinics, self-help and self-management groups at Mountbatten Hospice. This ensures these people are known to Mountbatten’s services sooner, and that they have increasing and better access to end of life care and support.
Advance Care Planning
Alongside Mountbatten’s mission to find and support Islanders who are in the last five or fewer years of life, Advance Care Planning extends Mountbatten’s support to everyone – even if they are currently well. Advance Care Planning encourages people to write down their wishes and preferences whilst they are still fit and active, so that should they experience serious illness or a sudden accident, their friends and families know how and where they would want to be cared for and treated. This goes well beyond the current boundaries of Mountbatten’s support and means that Mountbatten can plan and assess the future needs of its ageing population, ensuring the right resources are in place when they are needed.
Nigel Hartley, Chief Executive at Mountbatten, said:
“Our mission is to care for people in the last years of life, not the last weeks or days. Our experience proves that Islanders who are facing death, dying and bereavement have a better quality of life the sooner they can be referred and we continue to encourage our health and social care colleagues to ensure this happens.
“I am confident that with Mountbatten’s expertise and wealth of knowledge about end of life care, we will continue to open up access to more and more Islanders who are facing death, dying and bereavement.”
For more information about the study by the University of Leeds, visit www.leeds.ac.uk.