This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the second reading in the House of Lords of the Access to Palliative Care and Treatment of Children Bill [HL], scheduled to take place on 7 February 2020.
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The Access to Palliative Care and Treatment of Children [HL] is a private member’s bill introduced by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (Crossbench). The bill would place a legislative duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that the National Health Service (NHS) clinical services commissioners in England arrange palliative care services, where necessary and appropriate, for the adults and children whom they have responsibility for. It would entitle hospices that provide palliative care services to access pharmaceutical services on the same basis as any other service commissioned by a clinical commissioning group. The bill would also introduce a mediation requirement, with limited exceptions, before an application could be made to the High Court to approve the giving or withdrawal of medical treatment to a child.
Commenting on previous versions of her bill, Baroness Finlay has referred to the disparity between end-of-life care provision and other healthcare services. She has also spoken of the need to introduce a mediation requirement for where conflict over the treatment of children was in prospect. The Government has previously advised that decisions about configuration of services and approach to meeting local demands was for clinicians, commissioners, providers and patients. On taking legal action in best interest cases, the Government has said that it does not issue guidance on this area as each case must be considered on its own unique circumstances by those involved.
NHS England set out its plans to personalise and improve end-of-life care in the NHS Long Term Plan published in January 2019. In August 2019, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that £25 million would be provided to hospice and palliative care services. This investment’s purpose was to help keep facilities open and “improve” the quality of end-of-life care.
On 29 October 2019, the Government also stated it would work with patients, families, local authorities and voluntary sector partners to ensure equity of access to general and specialist palliative care throughout England.