End of life resources for the public

I need immediate help or advice now

Palliative and end of life care in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly happens across many different organisations, consisting of a large range of health, social care, voluntary services and privately owned businesses. It is often referred to as the ‘golden thread’ across services. However, all these teams have one goal in mind: To provide the very best care to the person with a life-limited illness and their loved ones.

You may wish to have a discussion with one of your care team, for example your GP, district nurse, specialist nurse, or care provider.

High quality end of life care includes good communication between you, the people close to you and those for caring for you. When contacting for immediate help or advice, it can be useful to have to hand important information such as any advance care plan, treatment escalation plans or current medication details.

Non-urgent advice: In an emergency

In an emergency for life threatening illness or injury call 999. If your condition isn’t serious enough, you will be sign posted to a more suitable place such as your GP surgery.

I need help or advice now

  • Contact your GP surgery: For people living at home or in a care home, their GP is responsible for their medical care. GPs work with other healthcare professionals to provide the best care for each person.
  • Out of hours palliative GP service: Kernow Health CIC provides an out of hours palliative GP service. Call 01872 224050.
  • Contact your community nurse or specialist nurse if you are already known to their service. Call 01872 253000.

I need non-urgent help

If you think you would benefit from the services below, please discuss with your GP, hospital or community team who can refer you:

Community nursing team

If a person can no longer leave their house or care home for appointments or treatment, a community nurse can help to arrange care in their own home/care home. Community nurses can provide care such as monitoring skin conditions, managing symptoms and ordering equipment (for example, a hospital bed or a commode). Community nurses can help coordinate other services that the person might need or refer them to the best services to meet their individual needs.

Community nurses often play a key role in supporting independence by providing and coordinating palliative and end of life care and working with the person and those important to them to prepare a personal care plan or advance care plan, to enable the person to remain to be cared for at home.

Contact your community nurse or specialist nurse if you are already known to their service. Call 01872 253000.

Community specialist palliative care nursing team

Each GP surgery has an allocated palliative care nurse. Their aim is to ensure all patients with complex palliative care needs receive high quality symptom control assessments, psychological support and advice to meet their individual needs.

Nurses work closely with a range of health professionals in the community, hospital, hospices and other voluntary and statutory agencies.

Community matrons

Community matrons provide intensive support to people at home in order to help keep people well, help them improve their health and enjoy a good quality of life. They aim to prevent unplanned admissions or treatment or when a hospital admission is needed; to support a quick discharge. They will help you to recognise and manage early signs of deterioration in order to achieve this.

If you think you would benefit from this service please discuss with your GP or hospital team who can refer you.

Care at home, care home, or a nursing home:

There is a range of support or options available to help you or someone you know with their care needs as they come to the end of their lives.

The care provided, and how it may be funded, will be individual to each person and their circumstances. You can find more information about what options may be available to the individual by talking with their health care team, such as the GP, community nurses, or hospital team.

NHS continuing healthcare, also known as fully funded NHS care, is free care outside of hospital that is arranged and funded by the NHS. If you are eligible for NHS continuing healthcare, NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly will fund the care needed to meet your identified care needs. Eligibility does not depend on a particular disease, condition, or diagnosis. Nor does it depend on where the care is provided, or by whom. If an assessment determines that you have a primary health need, you may be eligible. If you are not eligible and you have social needs, you can apply for help from Cornwall Council or the Council of the Isles of Scilly. The Cornwall Care Services directory can direct you to services that could help you more.

You can find more information here about NHS continuing healthcare or adult social care.

Other support available

Support available for patients and carers

Planning for your future

Many of us have thoughts and ideas about how we would want to be cared for if we were to become less well in the future. When we are facing serious illness or advancing age, these considerations become important to share with those people who are important to us.  Some people may feel comfortable discussing these issues, whilst others may feel understandably anxious about the future.  It is very important that however worried we may feel, we all take some time to think about what would matter to us should we suddenly become unwell.

Planning for a time of deteriorating health is often called ‘advance care planning’. This process may include simple plans for preferences around where we would want to be cared for, to more detailed plans which may include explicit wishes related to treatment decisions. Completing an advance care plan can offer reassurance that those things that really matter to us will shape decisions about our care if we are unable to speak for ourselves.

View the Cornwall & IoS Advance care planning webpage hosted by Royal Cornwall Hospital. This webpage contains useful information, links to local and national websites, and a template document for recording your wishes and preferences for care.

Personalised Care

Personalised care is about looking at the needs of the individual as a whole and working with them to prepare a care plan that suits their personal needs. Find out more about personalised care.

What to do after someone has died

Immediate help and advice

What to do

If someone you care for has died, despite death being anticipated this is likely to be a shocking and emotionally distressing experience. This section provides links to national and local websites that we hope will provide you with support and advice at this most difficult of times.

When someone dies in hospital

Once it is recognised that someone has died, if you are present you may inform the team caring for them. Alternatively the ward team will ring the designated contact within the patient notes. If you are by your relative’s side, you will be supported to remain with them during this important time should you wish. You should make the care team aware of any cultural significant customs that should be observed, or if the support of the pastoral care team is required. This service is available at all times, supporting people of all faiths and no faith.

A member of staff caring for the patient will examine them to confirm that death has occurred. This is a simple but thorough process which includes listening carefully for a heartbeat and examining for breath sounds. This usually takes place within an hour of death and becomes the official time of death. You may stay with your relative during this time. Before leaving the hospital, you will be given a bereavement booklet detailing the processes and contact details that will be useful in the coming days.

Deceased people are transferred to the bereavement services who will care for them until they are taken into the care of the family’s chosen funeral director. If you would like to visit with your relative during this time please inform the bereavement office who will make arrangements.

A member of staff from the medical examiners’ office will call you on the morning of the next working day once they have been informed of your loved one’s death.

When someone dies at home

Recognising when someone has died may at times be unclear. Dying people often feel cool to touch and may have shallow breathing. When those caring for the dying person believe that death has occurred, they can contact the person’s GP or healthcare professional, or contact 111 or the palliative care out of hours number 01872 224050 if overnight or on the weekend.

The healthcare professional will visit the persons home to confirm that death has occurred by undertaking a simple but thorough process which includes listening carefully for a heartbeat and examining for breath sounds. This usually takes place within four hours of death and becomes the official time of death.

Once death has been confirmed you may arrange for your relative to be transferred to a funeral director of your choice. Where it is felt that your relative’s death may need to be referred to the coroner, you will be advised of any special considerations when death is confirmed.

Learn more about care at the time of death and after death on the Marie Curie website.

Bereavement support

Immediately following a bereavement

The immediate hours following a bereavement can be an intensely difficult and emotional time. Once your relative has been taken into the care of the hospital bereavement services, or your chosen funeral director, in the initial hours following death there are no other immediate actions that are essential, other than those you feel are personally important. There is a period of five days in which to register the persons’ death. Find out more about registering a death on the Cornwall Council website.

You can find more bereavement advice and support information on the Cornwall Council website.

The countywide medical examiner service is located within the Royal Cornwall Hospital bereavement services. The contact details are: 01872 252553 Monday to Friday.

Cornwall Hospice Care Bereavement Support Services

Cornwall Hospice Care Community Services offer bereavement support. We understand that everyone’s loss is individual to them, the service will work alongside you to normalise upsetting emotions and offer helpful strategies to assist you in navigating your grief. All the bereavement support services are free of charge and can be accessed by anyone who has lost a loved one – you don’t have to have an association with the hospices to use these services. Below is a brief overview of the services you may wish to access, or visit the following link for full details: Bereavement Support through Cornwall Hospice Care.

Listening Ear – Bereavement Support

Cornwall Hospice Care Listening Ear Service is available to anyone living in Cornwall who has experienced the recent death of a loved one. Although not a counselling service, they are able to offer free information, support and signposting via the telephone for 6 calls of up to an hour each. You can self-refer or a loved one can do this for you – call us on 01726 829874   or email communityservices@cornwallhospice.co.uk – one of the team will answer your call or email to find out more about you and ensure this is the right service for your needs. They will work with you to arrange the support calls at a time to suit.

 Walk Talk Kernow – Bereavement Support 

If you are a bereaved adult and enjoy walking with some company, then Cornwall Hospice Care Walk Talk Kernow sessions could be for you. Each event supports social connections with others who are also experiencing grief, whilst you enjoy the fresh air and nature around you. They usually stroll for 1 to 2 miles and end the  walk somewhere where you can enjoy a drink and perhaps some cake too. There is no requirement to contact beforehand, or book in advance, although you may wish to chat with the team to tell you more, and confirm if this is the right service for you.

Bereavement Help Points – Bereavement Support 

Cornwall Hospice Care Bereavement Help Points take the form of a monthly drop-in space for anyone who has been bereaved. They offer a relaxed and supportive group environment for conversations, peer support, signposting and refreshments. There is no requirement to contact beforehand, or book in advance, although they are happy to chat with you to tell you more and confirm if this service is right for you. These bereavement support sessions run for 2 hours and you can arrive and leave to suit you.

Bereavement Group – Bereavement Support 

Cornwall Hospice Care Neighbourhood Hub at Redruth runs a small monthly rolling group for anyone who has experienced the recent loss of a loved one. Participants stay for the whole session (rather than just drop in) and can join for a number of weeks and leave when support is no longer needed. It’s an opportunity to meet, chat, share experiences and find ways of coping together.

To access any of the above, view Bereavement Support with Cornwall Hospice Care.

More information is available from the following sites:

National Audit of Care at the End of Life 2024

Auditing last days of life in hospitals.

Has your loved one recently passed away?

Would you like to give feedback that will help improve care received by services in England and Wales?

We would appreciate hearing your thoughts about the care received during the last days of life in one of our hospitals.

Page last reviewed: 13 May 2024

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