NHS End-Of-Life Care Branded 'Deeply Concerning'

An Audit Has Found Only 20% Of Hospitals Provide End-Of-Life Care

16.05.2014

A joint audit by the Royal College of Physicians and Marie Curie has found a number of issues with end-of-life care at medical facilities across England.

Currently, around half of all deaths in England occur in hospitals, but Marie Curie has concerns that many people who pass away on wards are not being given the dignity they deserve in the last days of their life.

To see how well dying people are cared for on the NHS, Marie Curie and the Royal College of Physicians assessed 6,580 people who died in 149 hospitals between May 1st and May 31st in 2013.

Results revealed that in 87 per cent of cases healthcare professionals had known the patient was in the last days of their life, but only 46 per cent felt capable of discussing this openly.

But doctors were much more open in talking to family members and friends about the person's imminent death, with 93 per cent of these people told about the patient's mortality - on average 31 hours before they passed away.

Marie Curie also had concerns over respect for spiritual or religious ceremonies, with only 21 per cent of people capable of having a conversation asked if they had any special requests for guidance.

Alongside the main study, relatives of people who passed away were asked for their thoughts on end-of-life care, where it was found that only 68 per cent were likely or extremely likely to recommend their trust to friends and family.

Professor John Ellershaw, director of the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute in Liverpool, said: "It is unacceptable in the current day and age that hospitals are failing patients and their families, in the care they receive at the end of their life. Too many patients are dying badly in our hospitals when we know how to care for them well.

"If some hospitals can provide good outcomes in care then all hospitals can."

Expert Opinion
Patients deserve high quality care throughout the time that they are receiving treatment and support from the NHS. While safety should always be a priority, so should welfare and dignity.

"Sadly, our work on numerous cases related to poor standards of care in hospitals means we have seen instances when such standards have not been met – meaning patients have suffered as a result of avoidable errors and families have faced the emotional heartache of watching loved ones face unnecessary pain.

"Improvements need to be made on this issue and it is vital that steps are taken following this research to learn lessons from the mistakes of the past so that the NHS, patients and their loved ones can look forward to a brighter future."
Mandy Luckman, Partner