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Health Minister opens conversations on palliative care at Marie Curie ‘Policy Hack’

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Health Minister, Simon Hamilton today opened a ‘policy hack’ event to explore a public health approach to palliative and end of life care.

The event, hosted by Marie Curie, brought together a range of stakeholders to share ideas and identify how more people with terminal illness can be cared for and supported in a community setting.

Speaking at the event, the Minister told those present: “Research shows that given the choice, most people want to be cared for and die in their own homes, in familiar surroundings and amongst those closest to them. A public health approach to palliative care aims to identify how non-clinical care can support more people to be cared for in a community setting.

“For this to be achieved needs something more than simply re-designing how health and social care is delivered, critical though that is.

“It requires a change in culture and social attitudes around death and dying. It requires an involvement of individuals and communities that will support care in its very widest sense, extending beyond the clinical to encompass the social, spiritual and psychological needs of people with terminal illness.”

Attendees at the event heard how a public health approach to end of life care seeks to move away from the traditional focus on primary or secondary clinical care, promoting instead greater community involvement in the well-being and care for people with a terminal illness. In doing so, the aim is to change social attitudes around death and dying to help meet the social needs of those living with terminal illness, including issues such as isolation and loneliness.

Joan McEwan, Head of Policy at Marie Curie said: “We are delighted the Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, was able to take time out of his busy schedule to be part of our special policy event which focused on a public health approach to end of life care. The overarching aim of the event was to explore the role our wider society has to play in supporting people living with a terminal illness in a community setting. This is the first time Marie Curie has hosted such an event and it was clear from those attending that there is a real need to leverage community support when it comes to helping people and their families living with any terminal illness.

“This need in Northern Ireland is increasing, with our ageing population living with more complex conditions, and more and more people living alone. There is growing acceptance that our community can play a vital role which contributes to the wellbeing of people with a terminal illness. What is clear from our event is that there is a real appetite to explore how a community approach can complement and assist clinical palliative care. This is something that Marie Curie is already progressing through its ‘Helper Service’ but a Northern Ireland wide public health approach will require true collaboration across all sectors if its true potential is to be realised.”

During his address the Minister also recognised the contribution made by Marie Curie to improving palliative and end of life care in Northern Ireland, including its key role in the Transforming Your Palliative and End of Life Care programme being taken forward in partnership with the Health and Social Care Board and Public Health Agency.

The Minister concluded: “Marie Curie has been at the forefront of improving care for people with terminal illness. They are instrumental not only in providing palliative and end of life services at its hospice and through community nursing teams, but also as a key partner in the Transforming Your Palliative and End of Life Care programme, and the work that is being taken forward under the auspices of that initiative to re-design how person-centred palliative care is provided.”

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