China will expand its national hospice pilot project with a third batch of pilot projects, significantly strengthening humanistic care for the elderly and terminally sick across the country as the country’s population ages.
The National Health Commission (NHC) of China has announced the third batch of locations, which include three provincial-level locations – Beijing, East China’s Zhejiang, and Central China’s Hunan – and another 61 cities or districts, including Nankai district in Tianjin Municipality, where the hospice care pilot project will be carried out.
According to media sources, since China’s top health authority initiated the project in 2017, a total of 185 pilot cities or districts have been established around the country in three experimental batches.
The population in China aged 60 and up will exceed 280 million by the end of 2022, indicating a continuous rapid expansion in the ageing population. According to data from China’s National Health Commission, the total number of senior people aged 60 and more is expected to exceed 300 million during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25).
How to deal with the growing number of old people in their final years and improve their quality of life has become a severe concern.
Hospice care is the physical, emotional, and spiritual care provided to elderly and terminally ill patients in order for them to die in comfort, serenity, and dignity.
The extension of the hospice care pilot project demonstrates a growing realisation of the need to actively cope with an ageing society and is evidence of a change away from generic problem resolution and towards the development of a high-quality response. Yao Yuan, a Population Association expert who has long been involved with ageing concerns, told the Global Times on Sunday.
According to Yao, the topic of hospice care has been discussed positively and formally in recent government papers and academic talks.
“In terms of end-of-life care, we have a deeper recognition that the elderly have spiritual and emotional needs that we must address in order to improve their quality of life,” Yao continued.
According to Yao, as society evolves, some senior individuals desire to receive attentive and dignified care in their final years and to have their wishes acknowledged and honoured.
According to the most recent NHC announcement, medical institutions with authorised circumstances can establish independent hospice centres based on their responsibilities and positions. Each pilot city, county, or district will have at least one hospice care ward by 2025. A hospice service system covering the entire pilot region, including both urban and rural areas, is scheduled to be built.
The announcement urged that hospice care services be aggressively provided at medical institutions’ geriatric medicine, cancer, pain management, and other departments.
The notification also demanded that supporting policies be improved, such as establishing a pricing system, investigating a payment system, expanding financial support, establishing a referral mechanism, developing standards and norms, and securing the availability of drugs.
The NHC will advocate for the inclusion of institutional and home hospice services in basic health insurance and long-term care insurance, allowing patients to receive government-funded services.