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Sunday, 24 October 2021
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New project launches to help families have end of life conversations

A new three-year project has launched in Somerset this month to encourage and support people to have important conversations about death and dying.

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

Specially trained Marie Curie Companions will arrange two or three meetings, in person or on the phone, where they will 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 will be delivered by Marie Curie in partnership with Somerset CCG, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Yeovil District Hospital and is targeted to support over 4000 people in its first three years.

In the first year, the focus for the service will be on Taunton, West Somerset, and surrounding areas, including Bridgwater, Chard, Langport and Ilminster, North Sedgemoor and Wellington/Tone Valley and will then be rolled out across the county in year two and three.

Up-front funding comes in the form of 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 the 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.”

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