Ceredigion palliative cancer care 'set back 10 years'

GP and patient (Library image) Dr Alan Axford claims the service has become "more fragmented" in the last 18 months

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A county's palliative care has been set back 10 years since a charity helping terminally ill people closed 18 months ago, says a former health trust medical director.

Beacon of Hope went into voluntary liquidation with the loss of 17 full and part-time jobs in December 2012.

Dr Alan Axford claimed there was now "less continuity of care".

Hywel Dda Health Board said it continued to work with partner agencies to assess what services were provided.

Dr Axford was a physician at Bronglais General Hospital, Aberystwyth, for more than 30 years and medical director of Ceredigion NHS Trust for 10 years.

He said: "The service is now at the same level before Beacon of Hope started. I think it has been set back 10 years.

'Care package'

"From a patient perspective there is less continuity of care which can be confusing for patients and carers."

Beacon of Hope's nursing services were funded by Hywel Dda, but its ancillary services relied upon public donations.

These included a patient advice service and a group of more than 40 volunteers who would sit with patients or help with other services such as gardening and shopping.

"The service has been fragmented in Ceredigion in the last 18 months and it is very difficult to ensure appropriate clinical governance with a multi-agency service," said Dr Axford.

"Palliative care needs to be timely and a package of care needs to be immediately available, ideally within 12 hours of it being requested.

"That is no longer possible because it can take many days, even weeks to get an appropriate package, by which time it is often too late."

The Beacon of Hope charity was founded in 2000 by retired teacher Elizabeth Murphy, and had offices in Aberystwyth, Cardigan and Machynlleth.

Mrs Murphy ran the charity's first office from her home in Borth, near Aberystwyth, and it was thought to have helped hundreds of people with terminal and life-limiting illnesses, and their families.

Her work was recognised in 2008 with an MBE for services to the community in Ceredigion in the Queen's birthday honours list.

A Hywel Dda spokesman said: "Providing a high standard of healthcare to people at the end of their life in a setting of their choice is important to Hywel Dda University Health Board and we have increased our palliative nursing capacity in Ceredigion.

"We continue to work with our partner agencies to assess what services are provided."

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