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Who pays for palliative care?

Fonthill House, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Palliative care offers those with a terminal illness physical, emotional and practical support. When considering this level of care, the same question often enters many people’s minds: do you have to pay for palliative care? The answer entirely depends on your circumstances; we cover all the ways to pay within this guide.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a type of specialist care for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It offers holistic support to improve your quality of life and cares for every aspect of your well-being. The aim of palliative care isn’t to cure your illness but instead to provide you with comfort and support, including:

  • Managing physical symptoms
  • Providing ongoing treatment
  • Emotional care
  • Daily practical support 
  • Providing support to family and friends
  • Supporting advanced care planning 
 

Not to be confused with end of life care, palliative care can begin as soon as you receive your terminal diagnosis and continue for as long as you need it, for years in some cases. End of life care is for people who are thought to be in the last year of their life, this is the final stage of the five stages of palliative care.

Palliative care is not only for you but also for your loved ones – offering emotional support and helping them to sort out financial or legal affairs.

Where can you receive palliative care?

Your palliative care team will aim to support you in a location you feel most comfortable. Your wishes will always be carried out where possible – including the place you receive palliative care:

At home

Palliative care is commonly given to outpatients, whether that’s at home or in a care home. At home, you can organise for a palliative care team to live in or visit regularly. They’ll create a palliative care plan that covers everything from treatment to spiritual care and practical support with daily tasks. Sometimes, home palliative care can be provided by the NHS in certain circumstances. In some cases though, you’ll have to arrange and pay for this type of care yourself. Many people prefer receiving palliative care from the comfort of their own homes, with family members close by.

In a care home

You can stay in a specialist care home to receive 24/7 palliative care from compassionate professionals who are experts in caring for those with a terminal illness. Care homes are a great option for many as you may feel more secure being in a home where professionals are always available. The palliative care team will ensure that you’re cared for in a way that fulfils personal, spiritual and cultural wishes. At Fonthill House, we offer a person-centred approach to care, meaning that your individual needs are always at the heart of what we do with loved ones being welcomed day and night.

In a hospital

If you’re currently in hospital, you may be offered palliative care there, especially if you need specialist doctors to help with treatments. Many hospitals have palliative care teams, who will work with the doctors and nurses to help care for and support you. This team will keep you informed and cater to your personal preferences whilst communicating with friends and family. Palliative care teams can also provide hospital staff with specialist advice on pain and symptom control. They may also help with your discharge plan to transfer you to a hospice or care home.

In a hospice

Hospices are for those with a terminal illness to receive palliative or end of life care. Hospice care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors and trained volunteers. A hospice team can visit your home or you can stay as an inpatient. Whilst hospices are designed for those with an incurable illness, you are free to take a break and return home if your condition is stable. As with all palliative care, hospice care is holistic and aims to support you with medical, emotional, social, practical, psychological, and spiritual needs.

Who pays for palliative care?

Palliative care can be paid for in various different ways, largely determined by your circumstances and where you received the care. Let’s explore the different ways to pay below:

The NHS

The NHS can fund palliative care in various ways. The first way is if you receive palliative care in an NHS hospital, then your care is paid for. Fast-track funding is also an option for those towards the end of life to receive immediate NHS continuing healthcare care. This can be provided within your own home but requires certain needs to be met, the following criteria are evaluated:

  • What help you need
  • How complex your needs are
  • How intense your needs can be
  • How unpredictable your needs are

Hospice care is also paid for mainly via NHS funding. With hospice care, you can receive this at home or within a hospice. Hospices can begin palliative care as soon as you receive a terminal diagnosis.

Self-funding

If you choose to stay in a specialist care home or hire a private palliative care team to visit your home, then you’ll have to self-fund the care. In some cases, you may not be eligible for palliative care from the NHS or local authorities as they may determine that you have enough finances to pay for yourself. In this case, you’ll have to pay for yourself. There are plenty of options available for self-funded care, with more specialist care homes being available to you. This will ensure that you receive the highest quality of care without any waiting times.

Charities

Several local and national charities can help with paying for palliative care, although they aren’t obligated to. Instead, they can offer practical support which can make all the difference:

  • Free support, counselling, home visits, transport to appointments and advice.
  • Vital information on what help you’re entitled to, filling out applications for you and speaking with local authorities on your behalf.
  • One-off grants to help fund care. 
  • Some charities also provide free hospice care for those nearing the end of their life.

The local authority

Your hospital palliative care team might refer you to the local authority to help pay for your care, or you can contact them yourself. Before covering the cost of your palliative care, the local authority will assess your needs by determining the type of help you need, what care is available and how much you may need to contribute to pay for the services. They’ll then conduct a means test to determine whether you can afford to pay. The local authority will then either pay the entire amount, pay part of the cost or decide that you can afford the care on your own. 

Palliative care is crucial for a comfortable and supportive life when you’ve received a terminal diagnosis. Having a team around you that supports your practical, emotional, health and spiritual needs make all the difference. Thankfully, there are plenty of funding options available as everyone has the right to receive palliative care.

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