Dying Patients Routinely Left Under Neglect In Final Hours

Report Reveals Dying Patients Are Left Dehydrated And In Pain During Their Last Hours


Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

Public Law experts at Irwin Mitchell have raised concerns after a worrying new report revealed today that thousands of dying patients are being left neglected in their final hours.

The report published today by the Royal College of Physicians said that in some cases doctors hadn’t let relatives know that patients were about to die, and that some NHS staff tended to shy away from terminally ill patients and were afraid to comfort them.

The report highlights that up to half of patients were not helped to drink in their final 24 hours according to medical notes; two thirds had not been helped to eat or given a feeding tube; one in five patients had not been not prescribed pain relief; and one in six had a ‘Do Not Resuscitate Order’ placed in their notes by a doctor who had not discussed it with them or their relatives.

The previous end-of-life guidelines, known as the Liverpool Care Pathway, involved food, fluid and medications being withdrawn from patients in their final hours to supposedly reduce suffering. However the procedure was heavily criticised and was abolished in 2014 after a major review.

Today’s report found that care has vastly improved as a result, but it has also underlined an ‘unacceptable variation’ between hospital trusts, partly due to lack of training and general attitude to the dying patients.

New guidelines have also been issued to NHS staff members on how to treat and care for dying patients, and on how to respect their personal needs and wishes.

The authors of the report examined the records of 9,302 patients who had died at 142 hospital trusts in May 2015.

Public Law solicitor Anne-Marie Irwin, who specialises in healthcare and medical treatment law, said:

Expert Opinion
“The findings from the report are very clearly worrying as they raise concerns that the safety and quality of care provided to those reaching the end of their life is simply not good enough and varies widely across the UK.

“With new guidelines in place, it must be hoped that lessons have been learned. Everything possible must be done to ensure that all patients’ human rights and dignity are considered during their care, including those with terminal conditions. Patients and their loved ones should be consulted, in so far as possible, to ensure they are comfortable with decisions being taken about their treatment and care.”
Anne-Marie Irwin, Associate