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The important role of social care at the end of life
  1. Tes Smith, Professor Margaret and
  2. Margaret Holloway
  1. Tes Smith and Professor Margaret Holloway are Joint Social Care Leads, the National End of Life Care Programme. For further information: National End of Life Care Programme, 3rd Floor, St John’s House, East Street, Leicester LE1 6NB. Email: Website:

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Nurses and their health colleagues recognise instinctively that dying is a process, not an event. They know that the ‘end-of-life phase’ might last months or even beyond a year (and in the case of some conditions it is accepted that death might come suddenly at any time over several years). During that time, many people nearing the end of life are likely to have more contact with social care professionals or other social care staff than with health professionals. Social care staff can make a real difference to an individual’s end-of-life care, particularly in ensuring their wishes and preferences are met, e.g. in relation to preferred place of care. This requires partnership working between nurses, other health professionals and social care, particularly in the sharing of information, to ensure coordinated, well-planned care.

Community nurses and hospital nurses involved in discharge planning are ideally placed to involve social care colleagues in planning, providing and coordinating the care of those approaching the end of life and their families. To that end, the National End of Life Care Programme (NEoLCP), working with its social care advisory group, published Supporting People to Live and Die Well: a Framework for Social Care at the End of Life …

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