New end of life care service makes a big impact

A new service aimed at supporting people at the end of life has been launched in Liverpool and South Sefton following a successful pilot.

The Integrated Mersey Palliative Care Team (IMPaCT) service is one of the first of its kind in the UK and is made up by a group of healthcare professionals - including doctors, specialist nurses and specialist therapists - who work collaboratively in hospitals, hospices and in the community to deliver high quality, person-centred palliative care across the city.

The new service is a partnership between Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Marie Curie Hospice, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Woodlands Hospice. The organisations have also worked alongside other healthcare organisations, commissioners and patient representatives to develop the new service.

The IMPaCT service can support around 3,000 people a year, or around 22 people a day. By reducing unnecessary hospital stays, the service is predicted to prevent around 5,800 hospital bed days annually. Every year that’s a £2.6million saving for NHS acute care.

Dr Julie Bellieu, Clinical Director of Palliative Care and Acute Oncology at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The IMPaCT service is a fantastic example of partnership working in action and it has made a huge difference by bringing together healthcare professionals from different organisations to deliver the best possible care for patients living with a terminal illness. Patients and clinicians now have a single point of contact at IMPaCT who can ensure they are speaking to the right people, with the right knowledge and skills, at the time they need us.”

Trish Bennett, Executive Director of Nursing and Operations at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The success of the IMPaCT model has reduced unplanned hospital admissions and improved partnership working, meaning more of our patients are being supported when they are at their most vulnerable. Instead of patients having to contact multiple services for their needs, access to all support and advice is now available to them via one phone number.”

To mark the official launch of the service, an event was held at Aintree Racecourse, attended by health and social care professionals from across the sector.

Dr Laura Chapman, Medical Director at the Marie Curie Hospice, Liverpool, said: “Research we’ve gathered during the last few years has demonstrated how IMPaCT has significantly improved coordination between care providers and resulted in staff working more effectively, meaning improved access to care for patients.

“We’ve also seen an uplift in the number of patients supported to die in their preferred place, whether that’s at home or in care homes. 

“This, in turn, has helped reduce unplanned hospital admissions across the city - for example we found that patients with three or more emergency admissions in the last 90 days of life decreased by 44% when they were supported by IMPaCT.

“I’m delighted that this game-changing service has now received the recognition and funding from Liverpool CCG, allowing us continue to support dying people across Liverpool to have the best possible end of life experience.”

Among one of the first people to benefit from the IMPaCT service when it was at pilot stage was Mark Loudon. He was living with oesophageal cancer which had spread to his bones, and spent time at the Marie Curie Hospice, Liverpool, prior to his death at home in March 2021 (age 58).

His wife Ellen Loudon (age 54, from Liverpool) said: "Mark was a great dad, an amazing husband, and he had a lot of hope. We had a great life together and always said that we flew without nets, that we could manage to do anything if we had each other.

“Mark was living with cancer for a few years and when we found out there was no likelihood of recovery the palliative nurses and Marie Curie did what they could for him, including getting him home.

“Those last months I felt like I was running out of time and all these impossible things were mounting up, I was feeling stress and anxiety. The IMPaCT service made sure that all the bits and pieces were put in the right place, from personal care to medication to resourcing, taking care of all those things which you never known you’re going to need to deal with until you have someone so unwell at home. I was kept informed but not troubled, and it meant that I could focus on Mark, our family, and the time we had left together.”

IMPaCT offers expert advice and support for patients with a terminal illness, and their carers 24 hours a day, seven days a week via: 0300 100 1002.