Social workers ‘must make end-of-life care their business’

Social workers do not see end-of-life care as relevant to them, according to experts at the government's National End of Life Care Programme.

Social workers do not see end-of-life care as relevant to them, according to experts at the government’s National End of Life Care Programme.

Margaret Holloway, joint social care lead at the programme, made the comment to Community Care ahead of publication of its framework to help the sector implement the national end-of-life care strategy, published in July 2008.

Holloway called for a culture change. “In social care it’s about recognising the skills they have but also for health care to understand that there is a role for social care and it may be earlier [in the last weeks of life] than they see it now,” she said.

Holloway emphasised the value of social workers’ assessment skills and in taking a holistic approach when planning end-of-life care.

Consultation with stakeholders suggests that progress on the strategy has been greater in health than in social care and that links between the two sectors are patchy.

The framework recommends greater use of specialist palliative social work teams.

Tess Smith, the programme’s joint social care lead, said: “Their expertise is not being passed on to the community teams and there’s not a link-up to share their knowledge.”

Other recommendations in the framework, Supporting People to Live and Die Well, include embedding end-of-life care within commissioning and inspection standards, including standard social work training and establishing an evidence base of good practice.

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