End of life care

Two thirds of people say they would rather die at home, yet only around one in five of us is able to so.  Most people have no choice but to end their years in hospital.  And it's telling that over half of all complaints about hospitals received by the Healthcare Commission are about end-of-life care.

That's why hospices like St Barnabas House provide such important palliative care for people at the end of their lives - as does its sister Chestnut Tree House at Angmering for children.  They don't just provide beds: their wonderful staff also give day, respite and community care and bereavement support for hundreds of families in West Sussex.

Last month St Barnabas received planning permission for its visionary proposal to re-build its hospice on a new site in Worthing.  Recently I have attended Friends of St Barnabas fundraising events in Storrington and Henfield where local people came to hear about the plans, which need to raise another £4 million from voluntary donations.

Hospices receive remarkably little government support.  Of the £8.3 million which St Barnabas and Chestnut Tree raised in 2006-2007, only a fifth came from grants including the Primary Care Trust, lottery and the Department of Health.

So when I heard the Health Secretary launch the Government's twice-delayed ‘End of Life Care Strategy' on Wednesday, I initially felt pleased that at last there would be more support for this important element of healthcare.  But then it became clear that the hospices won't be receiving any of the money, even though this was originally promised.

Chestnut Tree House is a superb facility, as I saw for myself when I visited it, yet it only runs at half capacity.  With more support, the hospices could give so many more people the best end-of-life care and the choice to die at home.  How lucky we are that local people do so much to support our hospices through voluntary giving.

Michelle Taylor