Despite improvements in the care of patients at the end of their lives, hospitals are still failing to provide the right level of care, with poor communication with relatives still a problem, a national review has found.
Commissioned by NHS England and led by the Royal College of Physicians, the report shows that only 16 out of 142 hospitals sites in England offer palliative care support at all times, though the majority do have a 24-hour helpline service.
The report is the first since the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway method of caring for the dying was abandoned – it has been replaced with a set of guidelines which focus on individual care. The review, which examined 9,000 sets of patients’ notes, indicates that there has been broad improvement, but that key issues need further attention.
For instance, researchers found that in 18 per cent of the cases examined, there was no evidence that ‘do not resuscitate’ decisions had been discussed with relatives or friends. In about one third of the notes, there was also no evidence that the patient’s ability to eat or drink had been assessed on the last day of their life.
The variability of palliative care was the main concern – although 53 of the hospital sites offered face-to-face palliative care on Monday to Sunday between 9am to 5pm, for 26 trusts there was no record of any specialist palliative care involving doctors at any time.
Ally Taft, Partner with Medical Accident Group, said: “Good palliative care can make a crucial difference to the quality of a person’s last days and to their family’s memories of them, so it is shocking to see how patchy that care is. Problems arise at all hours of the day or night, and staff should have access to specialists who can help them to give the quality of care which dying patients, and their loved ones, really need.”
If your family has been affected by poor care at the end of a loved one’s life, Medical Accident Group can help. Our experienced and sympathetic team, whose knowledge of clinical negligence and personal injury law is extensive, can support you through the process of making a claim and seeking justice. We can also advise on a wide range of issues from brain injury or birth injury to surgical and medical errors and accidents at work. Call us free on 0800 050 1668.