Dying Patients Deserve Better Care

20th May 2014

In the National Care of the Dying Audit for Hospitals, which analysed the deaths of 6,580 patients in 149 NHS hospitals in May, experts from the Royal College of Physicians and the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute found that the care provided to dying patients was “unacceptable”.

In many circumstances, healthcare professionals had recognised that the patients were dying but failed to inform the patient about this. Less than half (46%) of the dying patients who were still capable of conversation were told that they were in the final days of life. However, communication with families and friends was recorded in 93% of cases and on average, these discussions occurred 31 hours prior to death.

A number of dying patients were also overlooked in clinical discussions as only 17% of the surveyed patients were informed that they were evaluated to determine if they needed artificial nutrition.

Bereaved relatives and friends were also affected by the poor quality of care with 24% claiming that they did not feel involved in the decisions for the patient’s care and treatment. 37% also said that the emotional support given to them by the healthcare team was only fair or poor.

The audit also found that a fifth of the hospitals fail to give special training to their medical staff who care for dying patients. Only 19% of the trusts require mandatory training on how to care for dying patients for doctors, and 28% for nurses. Furthermore, it revealed that only a fifth of the hospitals have specialist palliative care staff working on weekends.

As a result of the findings, the audit recommends that hospitals should provide a face-to-face specialist palliative care service from at least 9am to 5pm, seven days per week. It also suggests that education and training in care of the dying should be mandatory for all staff caring for dying patients. This should include communication skills training, and skills for supporting families and those close to dying patients. It’s also advised that pain control and other symptoms in dying patients should be assessed at least every four hours and medication given promptly if necessary. All interventions should be discussed with the patient where possible and appropriate, and also with family, carers or other advocates.

At Fletchers, we welcome these recommendations. Communication, empathy and training is the key to good care and the NHS needs to take action so people that are dying are treated with the dignity, respect and compassion that they deserve.

Further Reading…

Apprentice Interview: Megann McKay

1st March 2019

Apprenticeship: Level 3 Paralegal The first of five apprentice interviews in this series is with Level 3 Paralegal, Megann McKay. Megann started her apprenticeship last September after being with the…

The impact of cuts to legal aid on access to justice

13th December 2018

Written by Eliza Esiategiwa, Assistant Litigation Executive at Fletchers Solicitors.  The legal aid funded civil law sector has been plagued by funding cuts since the mid-2000s. Between 2006 and 2009, legal aid was…

Ambulance crisis

27th November 2018

Written by Sadiya Zaib, Assistant Litigation Executive, in the medical negligence department at Fletchers: The NHS is approaching a crisis point like never before. Health and social care is suffering…

You don't have to go through this alone - take the first step now

  • IIP - Investors in People
  • The Sunday Times Top 100 - Best Companies To Work For 2016
  • The Investors In People Awards 2016 - Winner
  • The Legal 500 - Leading Firm 2015
  • The Law Society - Clinical Negligence
  • The Lawyer UK200 - Listed Firm 2015
  • Top Ranked Leading Individual - Chambers UK 2019