If we can’t as a society talk openly about death, then how are we ever going to get it right? If we can’t as a society talk openly about death, then how are we ever going to get it right? writes Andrew Fletcher, CEO of Longfield. Benjamin Franklin said there were only two things certain in life: death and taxes. The airwaves are full of talk about taxes but how many of us can say that we have seriously chatted to our loved ones about our wishes when it comes to our own death? According to 2014 research by the Law Society the majority of Britons have not written a will. I can’t be sure, but I am prepared to bet that the reluctance is partly that we don’t like acknowledging our own mortality. And partly because, as human beings, talking about death and dying can be uncomfortable. Health care professionals are humans too – we should not assume that because someone is a doctor or nurse, they are comfortable broaching difficult conversations about death with the people in their care. A recent report issued yesterday (Monday) by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found that dying elderly people are often being admitted to hospital against their will and end of life care is not good enough. The national review of 40 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across England and Wales found that many groups, including the frail elderly and those with learning difficulties, struggle to access end of life care. The review also found that many doctors and nurses were uncomfortable talking about death and dying with patients, and were confused about when end of life care should begin. We only get to die once, which means we only have one chance to get it right. It is so important for all of us providing end of life care to ensure that every individual is able, to the best of our ability and circumstances, to have the best death and that their wishes are respected. That why the work we do here at Longfield is so vital. It is our job to encourage people to have those difficult conversations before it is too late. To empower the health care professionals to start those difficult conversations, to support and guide families through what can feel like a bewildering and fraught maze. And to work together with the NHS and other providers to ensure that everyone gets personalised care, tailored to their own needs. These joined-up approaches ensure families receive the emotional and practical support they need. Families such as Lesley Gardiner’s in Dursley. Her 88-year-old father, Eric Rugman was in and out of hospital with complications and heart failure before doctors said there was little more they could do. Eric, known as Bill, could no longer live on his own. The options were hospital or a care home. “Dad always said he wanted to die and home. I always told him that he cared for me when I was a little girl and when he needed to be cared for I would do it,” said Lesley. Through her local GP, the district nurse and Longfield, Lesley and her family were able to bring Bill home. While Lesley talks about her father and is still sad about his death, she can also talk about him with a smile. “Because dad was able to die at home it brought us all closer together. We were so fortunate to have the support we did and that dad was able to die at home with us there around him.” We need to make sure that more and more people have an experience like Bill and his family. Here in Gloucestershire, there is some excellent work happening to improve end of life care, including a new strategy led by the with NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group. At Longfield, we are working with other local hospices through our Gold Standards Framework regional centre to improve the knowledge and skills of staff in care homes across the South West. Death, dying, loss and grief can be very difficult. But there is such a thing as a good death. That is a death where we die in our place of choice in the way we wish. A death where our loved ones are supported and continue to receive that support as they grieve. Unless we all work together and communicate together we will never get it right. As a society we need to stop shying away from a difficult subject and share with our loved ones what we want at the end of life. Talking about death doesn’t mean it is going to happen. But it can certainly help us get it right for the person when the time comes.