TERMINALLY-ill patients receiving care in the North-East are to be given access to a specialist ambulance service dedicated to respecting their wishes with palliative support.

The first of its kind service for the region will partner Macmillan Cancer Support with the North-East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (NEAS) to improve the quality of care for those most in need.

A £350,000 investment into the Macmillan Supportive, Palliative and End of Life Service will enable NEAS to recruit three new roles to support the operation who will equip paramedics with specialist skills in their work responding to 999 or 111 calls.

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Crews on scheduled ambulance transports services will also be trained and a dedicated Macmillan team will work with other healthcare providers to ensure patient care plans are fed into all systems.

Alison Kimber, clinical services manager at NEAS, said: “We have an ambition to deliver first class care to palliative and end of life patients and recognise the crucial part we can play in enabling people to achieve what they would consider a good death, especially in times of crisis and uncertainty.

“Currently patients who call 999 or NHS 111 for support will receive an ambulance due to the complexities of their conditions, which will usually result in them attending an emergency department, regardless of that patient’s wishes.

“This funding from Macmillan allows us to introduce palliative care expertise into the ambulance service, thereby enabling us to provide a more appropriate responsive service within the community for those patients to better meet their needs and wishes.”

Recruitment for the end of life service team will begin this autumn and work has already been undertaken to launch a scheme that allows healthcare professionals to arrange transports to ensure patients die in a place of their choice.

Tina Thompson, the region’s Macmillan partnership manager, said: “Our research has highlighted numerous issues around the UK, such as people with cancer not being able to die at home, or not receiving adequate pain relief.

“These problems can be addressed when staff are given specialist care skills to provide excellent support for people at the end of their lives, and those around them.

“We’re really pleased to have linked up with NEAS and are confident this work will make a huge difference to people with cancer.”