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Celebrants call for better support at end of life

Thousands of terminally ill people and their families are suffering from a lack of spiritual support being offered in UK hospitals and hospices, it is claimed.

A call has been issued by the head of a leading UK celebrants group to increase the awareness of non-religious help that is available to those coming to the end of their lives and in fulltime care.

The Executive Chairman of the Association of Independent Celebrants, Philip Spicksley, was speaking after attending a cross-party committee meeting in the House of Lords to discuss end of life care in Britain.

Chaired by distinguished palliative care doctor Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, the Westminster event was also attended by the Chief Executive of Hospice UK Tracey Bleakley, and Clinical Lead and Consultant in Palliative Care Medicine Dr Caroline Stirling.

The seminar heard how estimates suggest that more than 118,000 people and their families do not receive high quality care, with many spending their last weeks and months in hospital when they do not want to be there. And, with palliative care due to increase by 42 per cent by 2040, there is an increasing need to plan more effectively, using new technology, to allow more people to see out their lives in their own homes.

Meanwhile, seminar attendee Lord Sheikh highlighted his concerns over the lack of spiritual help offered to those in care who have no religious beliefs.

Mr Spicksley told the seminar how he had worked on an NHS review of ‘End of Life Care’ between 2014 and 2016, raising the very same issue. He spoke about the lack of improvement, despite the review being published.

“The review has within it directives to provide support for all spiritual beliefs, but there are still NHS providers failing to provide the said support, only having religious ministers on their chaplaincy teams and not offering anything else,” said Mr Spicksley.

“I informed the panel that this is not good enough and asked them what action they would be taking to improve this area of palliative care within our hospitals and hospices,” he said.

He also asked them how the Association of Independent Celebrants could help in assisting them achieve their aims and objectives.

An Independent Celebrant operating in Lincolnshire and the Humber region, Mr Spicksley, said: “We now have an extremely large percentage of funeral ceremonies conducted by Celebrants across both Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, yet to my knowledge there is little to suggest that is the case when it comes to offering end-of-life support for people receiving fulltime care.

“In the majority of cases, the patient and their families are offered religious help, but no other spiritual support to assist with their end-of-life planning and this should be addressed.”

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