Spotlight

Dying Matters Awareness Week

New project helping families in Somerset to have important end of life conversations

This week is Dying Matters Awareness Week and the focus this year is on the importance of being in a good place to die.

Where people die is changing. More people than ever are dying at home in recent years, and the pandemic has seen this number leap by tens of thousands.

There is no right or wrong place to die; it will be different for everyone. But it is important for families to think about it, to talk about it and to plan for it.

We have been working closely with our partners at Marie Curie, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and Social Finance to develop a new three-year project aimed at encouraging and supporting people to have important conversations about death and dying.

The ‘Somerset Talk About Project’ is helping people to think about and discuss “what’s important to me” when it comes to the end of life.

A specially trained Marie Curie Companion arranges two or three meetings – in person or on the phone – where they guide the person through a sensitively thought out programme of questions and conversations to help them put together an advance care plan for their end-of-life care.

The new service is run by Marie Curie in partnership with our NHS trust, along with Yeovil District Hospital and Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), is expecting to support over 4,000 people in its first three years.

The project is being funded by a social impact bond from the End of Life Care Integrator and the National Lottery Community Fund’s Commissioning Better Outcomes programme. If the project meets agreed outcomes after the first year, Somerset CCG will pay back the cost of the up-front social impact investment.

Research commissioned by Marie Curie in 2019 found that not being aware of someone’s final wishes, left those bereaved finding it difficult to cope with emotional wellbeing, financial matters, funeral arrangements, and other issues as a result.

The research also showed that while most people would be comfortable talking about their own end of life wishes (82%) or those of their loved ones (70%), very few have actually had this conversation (36%) or made any preparations (25%).

Julia Bearne, Community Engagement and Development Manager for Marie Curie in Wales and Southern England, said:

“It is incredibly important for families to have these important conversations, share their wishes and be prepared so that they have the best chance of a good end of life experience for themselves and those they leave behind. Not making any preparations can cause unnecessary upset, both for us and the people around us.

"The Somerset Talk About Project will guide patients and their families through the process of creating an advance care plan, with the aim of normalising the conversation about what is important to them, including about their care at end of life.”

Katy Nex, Social Finance’s Development Manager, said:

“With its focus on outcomes, this service will be continuously adapted to maximise its impact on the community, and commissioners will be given assurance of its effectiveness, thereby supporting the project’s sustainability in the future.”

If you live in Taunton or West Somerset  or surrounding areas and would like to find out more about the Somerset Talk About Project or to make a referral, you can speak to your GP or you can make a self-referral by calling 0800 3047 412 or email lat.mccompanionservice@nhs.net.