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Warning on growing palliative care needs

Thursday May 23rd, 2019

The number of people needing palliative care globally is set to double in the next 40 years, according to a new projection.

Describe as patients with "serious health-related suffering," 83% of these people will be in low and middle-income countries, according to the analysis at King's College, London, UK.

The findings were published today in The Lancet Global Health.

The researchers said the numbers would increase by 57% in wealth countries, a total increase of three million people annually needing palliative care.

The numbers are mainly based on expected increases in cases of terminal cancer and of dementia. The number of affected cancer patients is expected to double while there will be a three times increase in terminally ill dementia patients, the researchers say.

The researchers said health care systems would need to ensure that drugs were available to relieve symptoms.

Researcher Dr Katherine Sleeman, of the college's Cicely Saunders Institute, said: "Immediate global action to integrate palliative care into health systems is an ethical and economic imperative.

"Palliative care can relieve suffering for patients and families - and save money for health systems and society. To direct effective health care planning and policy development, it is essential to understand both the current and future level of palliative care need.

"Our findings call for global policies to strengthen health care systems through availability of essential drugs to relieve symptoms, staff training and public education, with a focus on the populations that will experience the fastest rise of suffering and need."

Fellow researcher Professor Richard Harding said: "The increase in palliative care need that we have identified will place an enormous burden on already weak health systems, particularly in low and middle-income countries. There is growing evidence that investment in palliative care services can support patients and families, as well as take pressure off hospital services by keeping people pain-free at home for as long as they wish.

"Society has a duty to provide care for all to the last moments of life."

Lancet Global Health 23 May 2019

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Cancer | Pain Relief | Pharmaceuticals | UK News | World Health

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