Measures planned are:

  • Doctors able to offer advice for patients in the evenings and at weekends
  • Patients to be put through to specialist staff who can provide urgent advice
  • Measures part of a four-year plan to improve end of life care after concerns
  • Just 1 in 10 hospitals have palliative staff working evenings or weekends

These experts will be able to offer advice on pain relief or comfort in the final hours at evenings and weekends. They will also be on hand to provide support for less experienced junior doctors working on understaffed wards alone. The measures are part of a four-year plan to overhaul end of life care amid concerns too many patients are being let down in their final hours.

 A string of damning reports have exposed a 'cross the road attitude' amongst staff, many of whom have not been properly trained to care for the dying. Standards are particularly poor out-of-hours and a recent audit by the Royal College of Physicians found that just 1 in 10 hospitals have palliative doctors or nurses working evenings and weekends. The Government is promising to ensure patients, relatives and staff can speak to these experts at any time of day by setting up a hotline service. They will be put through to a specialist doctor or nurse - who may be on call at home or working at a local out-of-hours clinic – who can provide urgent advice and address any concerns.

The Government is also promising that by 2020, all terminally ill patients will be helped to draw up care plans setting out whether they want to die at home and if, at any point, they want Do Not Resuscitate Orders put in their notes. Ministers are also promising to improve end of life care training of doctors and nurses and ensure they are encouraged to talk to patients about death.

However  campaigners pointed out that without sufficient funding and extra staff, standards would not improve.

Simon Chapman, Director of Policy and External Affairs for the National Council for Palliative Care, an umbrella organisation which represents various charities said: 'The hard work starts now in making sure that the government's new national commitment for end of life care becomes the reality. We are concerned that there is no dedicated funding to support this. It is therefore all the more important that end of life care genuinely becomes a core priority for the health and care system, so that we bring an end to the inconsistency and uncertainty that so many people experience.'

An audit of 9,000 patients by the Royal College of Physicians in March found that some were being denied pain relief, comfort and fluid in their final hours. The authors said that in many cases, staff had not even told relatives their loved ones were about to die.

source e-hospice 18.07.16