6 October 2015 09:21

A Lancaster researcher has been a key advisor on the new Quality of Death Index, published today by the business information arm of the Economist magazine.

Professor Sheila Payne, of the International Observatory on End of Life Care, helped The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) compile the report, which ranks 80 countries according to the provision of end-of-life-care services.

The EIU ranks the UK first in the Index due to its comprehensive national policies, the extensive integration of palliative care into the NHS, a strong hospice movement, and deep community engagement on the issue.

The UK also came top in the first Quality of Death Index, produced in 2010.

Speaking about the report as a whole, Professor Sheila Payne said: “There is a general trend globally from seeing hospice and palliative care as being at a pioneering stage in many countries, to now regarding it as embedded in national healthcare systems, which is really important for sustainability and improving access for all patients.”

Although in comparative terms standards of palliative care in the UK are second to none, the report states there is still room for improvement. An investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman into complaints about end-of-life care, published in May 2015, highlighted issues such as poor symptom control, poor communication and planning, not responding to the needs of the dying, inadequate out-of-hours services and delays in diagnosis and referrals for treatment.

Further improvements are also necessary to cope with future demand. EIU analysis of the need for palliative care, which accompanies the Index, suggests that the need for palliative care in the UK will keep growing, due to an ageing population.