A funny thing happens when you follow news coverage of certain topics–you start to spot trends. So it wasn’t too surprising when the EIU’s 2015 Quality of Death Index ranked the UK as tops in palliative care.
Global media reports on death and dying offer plenty of anecdotal evidence that could lead one to conclude that the UK is ahead of its peers when it comes to dealing head on with death and dying. Among the things that show up most often are a vibrant Death Café movement, a more whimsical approach to funerals than many of its western counterparts (the top choice in funeral songs is Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side), and a steady increase in the unique personalization of funerals. But these items all come after the need for palliative care. Fortunately, the UK is doing a great deal to address what comes before the funeral and it really is making a difference.
As noted in the Quality of Death Index report, the UK’s success can be attributed to a comprehensive slate of national policies, the extensive integration of end-of-life treatment into the National Health Service, and the region’s strong hospice movement. The UK topped the list in 2010 as well; the last time the survey was published. But previous results aside, we have to say bravo to our brothers and sisters across the pond for being the best of the best when it comes to taking care of people right up to the end of life.
Based on the findings of the Quality of Death Index report, there is a lot of progress being made, not just in the top countries, but around the world. Still, there is lots of work left to do.
Despite the improvements this research reveals, much more remains to be done. Even top-ranked nations currently struggle to provide adequate palliative care servicesfor every citizen. Cultural shifts are needed as well, from a mindset that prioritises curative treatments to one which values palliative care approaches that regard dying as a normal process, and which seeks to enhance quality of life for dying patients and their families. Read the full 2015 Quality of Death Index report
2015 QUALITY OF DEATH INDEX KEY FINDINGS:
- The UK has the best quality of death, and rich nations tend to rank highest.
- Countries with a high quality of death share several characteristics.
- A strong and effectively implemented national palliative care policy framework;
- High levels of public spending on healthcare services;
- Extensive palliative care training resources for general and specialized medical workers;
- Generous subsidies to reduce the financial burden of palliative care on patients;
- Wide availability of opioid analgesics;
- Strong public awareness of palliative care.
- Less wealthy countries can still improve standards of palliative care rapidly
- National policies are vital for extending access to palliative care.
- Training for all doctors and nurses is essential for meeting growing demand
- Subsidies for palliative care services are necessary to make treatment affordable.
- Quality of care depends on access to opioid analgesics and psychological support.
- Community efforts are important for raising awareness and encouraging conversations about death.
- Palliative care needs investment but offers savings in healthcare costs
- Demand for palliative care will grow rapidly in some countries that are ill-equipped to meet it.
It’s almost become a truism to talk about the world’s aging population. This is risky since it’s a problem that is not going to go away. We are right to laud the progress made in offering the best in palliative care, but we need to keep the issue front and center and continue to build on this progress. In the wise words put forth in the report by Dr. Ira Byock, the Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer of the Institute for Human Caring, Providence Health & Services:
“The time for incremental change is over,” he says. “And we’d better hurry because with the ageing of the population and the continued growth of chronic illness,the trends are not in our favour. We have to move swiftly.”
Download the full 2015 Quality of Death Index