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OU research informs policy on understandings for a "good death"

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To mark Dying Matters Week and Demystifying Death Week (6-12 May), an OU researcher’s study into end of life care, has informed a Wise in 5 briefing looking at government strategies underpinning palliative and end of life care across the UK and Ireland.

Professor Erica Borgstrom is an expert on end of life care and death studies and has used her research to inform the Wise in 5: Palliative and end of life care.

Wise in 5 briefings are a snapshot comparative guide to a public policy issue across all four nations of the UK and Ireland, produced by PolicyWISE, a unique UK and Ireland comparative policy research and knowledge exchange initiative that changes and improves how governments and academics work together in and across the nations to solve policy challenges.

In this case, it looks at the findings of Professor Borgstrom and her team, and the wider policy landscape that influences policies across the UK on how ‘end of life’ care is understood and practiced.

For example, one of our overall findings in this field is that a critical analysis of government policy, has recommended a shift away from using the term “good death” and favours a move towards outlining what quality end of life care should look like.

Professor Borgstrom

Five policy takeaways from the briefing are:

  1. Strategies for the delivery of palliative care should be published, reviewed, and updated for both adults and children by each nation of the UK and Ireland.
  2. Workforce planning needs to recognise the aging population and the increase in people living with complex health needs.
  3. The introduction of a legal right to palliative care (including hospice-care) needs to be accompanied by suitable resources.
  4. There should be exploration of the benefits of discussions around quality end of life care instead of the inherent subjectivity linked to a “good death”.
  5. Research on how policies or strategies are implemented is vital for informing future policy and service delivery. Research should uncover how to improve our understanding of population needs and reduce inequalities in provision or access to end of life care.

The OU collaborates with several charities, hospices and NHS trusts to conduct research in this field. This work is done via the Open Thanatology group.

Professor Borgstrom has submitted an Open Societal Challenge on palliative and end of life care as well as one on death literacy. These Challenges aim to tackle some of the most important societal challenges of our time through impact-driven research that will transform lives and drive societal change.

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