Death and dying is an inevitable part of life, and will occur in all settings: at home, in care homes, in hospices, hospitals and other institutions. As health and care staff, we have the opportunity to make a positive difference to the experience of people who are dying, and their families, carers and those important to them. This privilege brings with it the responsibility to equip ourselves properly, in the range of skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours that are needed to be able to support, care and treat people at this vulnerable time of their lives – not just at the very end of life, but also throughout the trajectory of their illness and, for their loved ones, after death has occurred.
Service providers, employers and commissioners carry a similar responsibility – to value and appreciate our workforce as a precious resource, and to educate, train and support accordingly. Looking after people who are facing the end of their lives, and those who are close to them, is tough physical and emotional work – it requires not only technically competent skills, but also fine judgement, kindness, compassion and resilience, all of which can take a significant toll over time, if not properly equipped and supported.
The Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care: A national framework for local action 2015-2020 sets out ‘All staff are prepared to care’ as one of its six ambitions. The underpinning foundations of the Ambitions framework, and the building blocks within the other five ambitions, all have areas that require staff (and volunteer) training and development to turn them into reality. Moreover, there is good evidence that a positive staff experience is associated with improved patient experience and outcomes. So, investment in staff education, training and support simply makes good sense in all sorts of ways.
This framework, commissioned by Health Education England, and developed in collaboration with Skills for Health and Skills for Care, sets out the core skills and knowledge that are required in a clear and logical framework, against which local commissioners, services providers and clinical teams can benchmark their own standards, identify areas which need to be improved and take steps to address these. In the spirit of collaboration, they may also wish to identify areas of particular strengths which can be shared with others across the country. The Knowledge Hub, hosted on the Ambitions for Palliative and End of Life Care website provides a mechanism for sharing good practice