Dying is the one certain thing in life – we will all die. Some people unexpectedly as a result of illness or accident, and some gradually from a chronic illness or frailty. The RCN believes that no matter what the reason, everyone has the right to be cared for with dignity and respect as they approach the end of their lives.
The term ‘end of life’ usually refers to the last year of life, although for some people this will be significantly shorter. The term palliative care is often used interchangeably with end of life care. However, palliative care largely relates to symptom management, rather than actual end of life care.
The RCN believes that end of life care is not just the responsibility of specialist nurses and teams, rather that everyone should be able to care for a loved one as they reach the end of their lives, including all nurses and health care support workers in all settings, the patient’s family as well as members of the community.
End of life care is not just the practical and technical delivery of care provided to the individual who is dying, but also refers to the support and information available both to them and the people who are important to them, e.g. bereavement support.
Due to an unacceptable variance in the availability of services and professional expertise available to patients, many people are experiencing poor care at a time when they and their families need it to be at its best. The RCN is committed to ensuring that nurses working with people who are dying are given the support they need to understand their role.