Letter: Hospitals that help patients to face death

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The Independent Online
Sir: No one could have read John Hoyland's moving description of his stepfather's death (22 April) without feeling both anger and sadness. Thirty years after the birth of the modern hospice movement, with the foundation of St Christopher's Hospice by Dame Cicely Saunders, this experience remains all too common.

In our view, it is the right of every person with a life-threatening illness to receive appropriate palliative care - care which integrates physical and psycho-social care. Whether or not they do so depends on the availability of resources as well as professional skills and attitudes. It is the responsibility of every health care professional to provide palliative care, calling in specialist colleagues if the need arises, as an integral component of good clinical practice.

What is to be done? John Hoyland acknowledges that hospices would have provided a "supportive, loving and cheerful environment" not found in the hospitals that cared for his stepfather. The growing number of palliative care teams in acute hospitals provides another solution - but only if their role is understood and they are asked to help.

JEAN GAFFIN

Executive Director

National Council for Hospice and Specialist Palliative Care Services

London WC1

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