The Welsh Ambulance Service has joined forces with Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, launching a new initiative to improve the care delivered to terminally ill patients.
The collaboration, which launched during Dying Matters Awareness Week (10-16 May 2021), is designed to improve the training delivered to ambulance crews so they can provide the very best care for patients at the end of life.
The training helps to give staff a greater understanding of end of life care, supporting clinicians to better recognise when a patient is nearing end of their life, and improving communication and symptom management skills to prevent avoidable hospital admissions.
Ed O’Brian, Macmillan Paramedic and the Trust’s End of Life Care Lead, said: “The collaboration between Welsh Ambulance and Macmillan Cancer Support will bring huge benefits to patients and staff across Wales.
“Ambulance clinicians are often called to assist patients nearing the end of their life due to an advanced or terminal illness, so it’s vital they can do so having had the appropriate training and with the right support structure around them to deliver the best care.’
“The network of support being developed as part of this project in conjunction with Palliative Care Wales is invaluable, such as the ability for an ambulance clinician anywhere in Wales to be able to contact a palliative medicine doctor 24/7 from the patient’s home to seek their advice and guidance in order to achieve the best outcome for the patient.’
“The two-year project will also help us to identify why, where and when patients at the end of life are needing to access the ambulance service, so we can identify areas for further development across the health and care sector in Wales.”
This is the latest in a series of initiatives between the Welsh Ambulance Service and Macmillan Cancer Support designed to improve the care that palliative patients receive.
Richard Pugh, Head of Partnerships for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said: “Macmillan is so very proud to be able to help fund this project through the fantastic and tireless support given by our fundraisers.’
“This first-of-its-kind partnership means we can help people, and their loved ones, to spend their final days in the way they want.’
“As people near the end of life, dignity and the knowledge that their final wishes have been met is the best comfort and gift we can give them.”
In 2019, the Welsh Ambulance Service won an NHS Wales Award in the Delivering Person-Centred Services category for its End of Life Care Rapid Transport Service, as well as the Outstanding Contribution to Transforming Health and Care Award.
The End of Life Care Rapid Transport Service, delivered by the Trust’s Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service, works with teams across Wales to provide transport for terminally ill patients to their preferred place of death.
The enhanced service ensures patients and their families have minimal delays, helping to reduce any further distress and anxiety.
The dedicated service has made nearly 2,000 compassionate journeys since its introduction in 2017.
The Trust was also the first ambulance service in the UK to introduce ‘Just in Case’ medications to its frontline emergency vehicles, allowing paramedics to better manage the symptoms that may sometimes be experienced as terminally ill patients become more poorly.
Nikki Pease, Palliative Care Consultant at Velindre University NHS Trust, added: “Where and how people die matters.’
“This all-Wales collaborative project serves to ensure first class end of life care to all.”