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Palliative Care – So what is it anyway?

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08 Aug 2017

This was the theme of the Manchester “Living Well With Mesothelioma” Support Group July Meeting.

The talk was presented by Dr Samantha Kay, a consultant in palliative care based at Wythenshawe Hospital and St Anne’s Hospice and also Lorraine Creech, a Mesothelioma UK Nurse and despite the technical difficulties with the IT, it was a very good presentation.

It was good not just because they both knew their stuff, which they clearly did, but because it was inclusive and allowed everyone, particularly sufferers, to join in and to ask questions about the different drugs, side effects and help available.

Dr Kay explained that most people even in her own family don’t know what palliative care is. The assumption of many is that it’s about helping people with pain relief when they’re dying. Dr Kay explained its much more than this. It’s about looking at a person as a whole and seeing what can be done to help them with anything from pain and symptom control to their mental health, for example depression and other effects of having a serious illness. It’s not just about the dying either, it’s about those with long term illnesses who may or may not be cured.

Palliative care can involve a number of different people which is why people can get confused. For example it can be a Macmillan Nurse, a Mesothelioma Specialist Nurse, a Cancer Nurse, a Support Nurse or a Palliative Consultant. It can be provided through a hospital or a hospice or other organisations such as Macmillan.

She explained about hospice care too and people’s perception that if you go in to a hospice it’s to die and tried to allay people’s fears. Hospice care isn’t just about the dying. It’s about helping people before that too and some who have long term illnesses. She spoke of people going in to hospice for up to a couple of weeks to get their symptoms under control or even going just for the day to attend different groups which are put on.

One lady in the audience spoke of going to her local hospice for a “feel good” day for women. She went in for the day had her hair and makeup done and felt great at the end of it. Another talked of going to a hospice for hydrotherapy. Both things people don’t normally associate with hospice care.

Dr Kay also explained about the WHO Ladder for pain control and how it moves up in phases depending on whether the last stage has worked and whether symptoms have gotten worse.

The image below shows the different stages:

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Dr Kay talked about the different types of pain relief available from paracetamol to opiate based medications for example morphine. She also talked about some of the side effects.

There was the general update too from the group and it was during this that the group learned that Trevor Barlow, a campaigner for mesothelioma generally since his diagnosis, had died. I had the great pleasure of getting to know Trevor during his illness. He appeared on breakfast TV last year and also spoke at Action Mesothelioma Day in Manchester. He will be sadly missed.

Graham Dring from the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victim Support Group also updated everybody on the events this week and the Japanese delegation who are over this week for Action Mesothelioma Day. Some will be attending Manchester, some are going to Liverpool and some to Birmingham.

Lorraine Creech explained that Mesothelioma UK is going to be increasing its number of specialist nurses from 13 to 18 and will have nurse in additional hospitals including Southampton, London and Liverpool. They would like to increase the number of nurses over the next 5 years to hopefully 30 throughout the country.

Lorraine explained about some of the differences between Scotland and England when it comes to NHS provision and that they are trying to improve the situation in Scotland so that people will have access to similar NHS care in Scotland for Mesothelioma as they do in the England and Wales.

For further information, please contact

Helen Wilson – 01422 399552

The Asbestos Law Partnership LLP


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