New parliamentary report on assisted dying calls on the Government fix ‘patchy’ access to palliative care and increase funding to hospices

01 Mar 2024

On 29 February, the Health and Social Care Committee published the findings of their Assisted Dying/Assisted Suicide Inquiry.

What is the Health and Social Care Committee?

The Health and Social Care Committee is a cross-party group of MPs who look at the work of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Over the last year they have been hearing evidence from experts to gain a better understanding of the issue of assisted dying/assisted suicide. The report they have published does not take a position for or against assisted dying, instead it is intended to bring information together and to help inform future debate on the issue.

How are Sue Ryder involved?

In January 2023, we gave written evidence to the committee as part of the Inquiry, and in July our Chief Medical Director, Dr Paul Perkins, provided oral evidence in Parliament to a panel of MPs who sit on the committee.

While Sue Ryder’s position on the issue is neutral, the evidence we gave highlighted that it is crucial we have fair and equal access to high quality palliative and end-of-life care (PEoLC). This would help make sure, if Parliament chose to legalise assisted dying, that people aren’t choosing an assisted death because they’re unaware of, or cannot access, the PEoLC support they need.

Fair funding for hospices needed

We welcome the report’s focus on PEoLC. It recognises that access to, and the provision of, PEoLC is patchy across the UK. It urges the Government to fix this by increasing funding to hospices so they can continue to be able to provide PEoLC. It also emphasises the importance of people having a choice over the care they get at the end of life.

A strategy for improving death literacy

The committee also recommended the Government establish a national strategy for death literacy and support following a terminal diagnosis. Death literacy is the knowledge and skills that people need to make it possible to gain access to, understand, and make informed choices about end of life and death care options.

Improving death literacy would help healthcare professionals improve support for individuals and their loved ones from the moment of a terminal diagnosis. We highlighted the importance of death literacy in our evidence and we’re pleased the committee has also drawn attention this.

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