From left, Tina Thompson, Macmillan Partnership Manager in the North East; Dawn Orr, End of Life Care Nurse Consultant in Palliative Care and Alison Kimber, Clinical Services Manager at NEAS.

New specialist service for terminally ill patients in North East

Second ambulance service in the UK to create dedicated end of life service

A specialist ambulance service will soon be available to ensure the wishes of terminally ill patients in the North East are respected.

The new partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support and North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (NEAS) aims to address problems which have been highlighted across the UK around the quality of care and support for patients at the end of their lives.

The Macmillan Supportive, Palliative and End of Life Service, which is believed to be the first of its kind across the North and only the second in the UK, is set to launch at the start of 2018.

Macmillan has invested £350,000 funding over a three-year period, to enable North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) to recruit three new roles: a Macmillan Nurse Facilitator, a Macmillan Engagement Officer and an admin support role.

Working from within the Operations Centre at NEAS, they will be tasked with equipping ambulance staff with the specialist skills necessary to support terminally ill patients, and the people around them, whether that be on an emergency 999 call, a NHS111 call or as part of a scheduled ambulance transport service.

The dedicated Macmillan team will also work with other healthcare and social care providers throughout the North East to ensure patients’ care plans are fed into the system so their wishes can be respected throughout the process.

As well as providing better patient care, it is hoped this service will mean more patients can continue to be cared for at home and prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital.

Tina Thompson, Macmillan Partnership Manager in the North East, said: “End of life care is a major issue and it’s something Macmillan has campaigned about and called on the government to make a priority. Our research has highlighted numerous issues around the UK, such as people with cancer not being able to die at home, or not receiving adequate pain relief. These problems can be addressed when staff are given specialist care skills to provide excellent support for people at the end of their lives, and those around them.

"We’re really pleased to have linked up with the North East Ambulance Service and are confident this work will make a huge difference to people with cancer.”

Recruitment of the team will begin in the autumn.

The new service expands on the work already undertaken to improve end of life services for North East patients, which has included a successful end of life transport scheme, which allows healthcare professionals to arrange transportation for patients to be able to die in a place of their choosing.

Building on that service, NEAS has worked with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead to secure the hospital’s nurse consultant in palliative care, Dawn Orr, to work within NEAS on a one-year secondment to further improve services for Palliative and End of life patients across the region.  

For the last year Dawn has been working as a nurse advisor and clinical expert within the Trust’s Clinical Assessment Service supporting NEAS employees both in the Operations Centre and out on the road to develop the Macmillan service.

Alison Kimber, Clinical Services Manager at NEAS, said: “We have an ambition to deliver first class care to palliative and end of life patients and recognise the crucial part we can play in enabling people to achieve what they would consider a good death, especially in times of crisis and uncertainty.

“Currently patients who call 999 or NHS111 for support will receive an ambulance due to the complexities of their conditions, which will usually result in them attending an emergency department, regardless of that patient’s wishes. This funding from Macmillan allows us to introduce palliative care expertise into the ambulance service, thereby enabling us to provide a more appropriate responsive service within the community for those patients to better meet their needs and wishes.”

Money from Macmillan used to fund the new staff at the North East Ambulance Service has been raised thanks to donations from the public. To get involved with fundraising for Macmillan in the North East, call Macmillan’s fundraising support centre on 0300 1000 200 or email

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