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Investigations into end of life care reveal improvements are needed

A recent investigation by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has found that widespread improvements are needed in hospitals to ensure better care and support for dying patients.

Vital statistics

After investigating 6,580 deaths in 149 hospitals throughout May 2013, the report found that less than 50% of patients, in their last hours or days, were told that they were dying by healthcare staff.

Additionally, as well as highlighting a continual lack of specialist palliative care at weekends, the report has brought to light multiple complaints by families claiming that their dying relatives did not have satisfactory access to fluids.

The audit by the RCP, which included a combination of NHS Pathway patients and patients not on the scheme, found that 59% were assessed to see whether they needed fluids through a drip – however conversations about thirst were held with only 17% of patients and 36% of relatives and friends.

858 bereaved family members were questioned about how involved they felt they were in decisions about the care and treatment of their dying relative. A quarter of them felt that they had little involvement and 37% felt that the emotional support given by the hospital staff was fair or poor.

Training for hospital staff

The report also highlighted the lack of training that hospital staff are receiving in order to equip them to give satisfactory care for the dying. It was revealed that training was mandatory for doctors in only 19% of Trusts and for nurses in 28%.

Dr David Brooks, president of the Association for Palliative Medicine, said:

“Although we all face dying at some point, there isn’t adequate training and access
to specialist support in the majority of hospitals to ensure all dying
patients receive the care they deserve whenever they need it.

“It should be a basic entitlement for a dying person to have high quality, compassionate
end of life care. This requires those caring for them to have adequate
basic training and access to specialist support when needed,
irrespective of where they are in the country.”

If you feel that you, or one of your loved ones, haven’t received satisfactory care during your time in hospital, and you would like expert advice, contact the Hampson Hughes Solicitors Medical Negligence Team today on 0151 242 1025 or email medicalnegligence@hampsonhughes.com

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