Family-First Approach Vital To Improve Support For Dying Patients

Lawyers Welcome Plans To Phase Out Liverpool Care Pathway

15.07.2013

By Rob Dixon

Public law experts specialising in health and social care issues have welcomed an independent review calling for the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) to be phased out and urged that a new system should ensure that patients’ families have their voices heard.

The review led by crossbench peer Baroness Neuberger has stated that the pathway, developed in the 1990s and designed to provide consistent and quality care for dying patients, should be withdrawn in the next year due to concerns about implementation and care standards.

Serious concerns have been raised that families have seen loved ones placed on the pathway without their consent, with others claiming NHS Trusts have used it to clear beds and ultimately save money – issues denied by the Department of Health.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law team, which represents the families of vulnerable patients in relation to concerns over health and social care issues, said it was vital that lessons should be learned from the experiences seen with the LCP.

Anne-Marie Irwin, a legal expert based at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, said: “The LCP was created and developed with the best of intentions, but the very serious concerns raised about both its implementation and use by NHS Trusts simply cannot be ignored.

“The key issue now is for the Department of Health to work with patient groups and the NHS at large to develop a new, alternative and ethical pathway which ensures that those coming to the end of their lives are given dignified care and that their loved ones have their voices heard too.

“Families must be involved in serious decisions regarding healthcare, as they are very often the best people to know exactly what the patient involved would want at such a critical stage of their life.

“In a great number of situations, the clinical decisions made through a pathway will be the right ones and families will agree with them. However, it is still of course incredibly important that they are consulted.

“These issues need to be seriously considered if a new process is to be both viable and meet the needs of patients at such a critical time.”

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