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We need a rethink on palliative care – it works best if started early

by Miriam Stoppard, Daily Mirror, 14 April 2017

Dr Stoppard notes that “Most of us think palliative care is for people in the terminal stage of cancer . It is often delayed until the last few weeks or days of life when treatments are no longer effective.However, we need to rethink that as up to 80% of people who die could benefit from palliative care earlier.”

What is palliative care? It’s the ­wraparound care of people with a terminal illness and continues until their life ends. The best palliative care covers many needs: medical, social, psychological and spiritual and is patient-centred.

There are many benefits of early palliative care for families as well as patients. Outpatient specialist ­palliative care in particular improves quality of life and, for some, longevity.

It can also help avoid uncomfortable interventions that have little benefit. Studies of older people in Australia and people with chronic disease in Canada show significantly fewer hospital admissions for those who have early palliative care.

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