End-of-life row 'causes public fear'
HEALTH chiefs have said the controversy surrounding end-of-life care is making the public wrongly fearful.
Speaking at yesterday's Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust Board Meeting, Dr Doug Hooper, a palliative care consultant at Derriford Hospital, said the "scaremongering" headlines relating to the Liverpool Care Pathway were creating a "huge amount of fear".
The Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient (LCP) is a model of care which enables healthcare professionals to focus on care in the last hours or days of life when a death is expected.
The Pathway can involve the removal of drugs and nutrition if these are not judged to be of benefit.
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The LCP has been implemented in hospitals, care homes, in the individual's own home and community and in hospices.
It is recommended as a best practice model, most recently, by the Department of Health.
But recent national newspaper headlines have caused outrage, with reports of patients at hospitals across the country, not including Derriford, being denied drugs, food and water in their last days of life without having given their informed consent.
Dr Hooper said: "We do not use the LCP to sedate people to death. We do not receive payment for putting people on the LCP. We do not starve and dehydrate our patients to death.
"It is a high-quality tool for people dying in hospital and around a third of the people who die in Derriford are on the LCP. But there is a huge amount of fear around the LCP because of the negative press coverage. The scaremongering headlines really don't help and it's very sad that such fragile people are being subjected to them. The LCP is not euthanasia."
The LCP is tailored to the person's individual needs and includes consideration of their physical, social, spiritual and psychological needs.
Dr Hooper said the LCP requires senior clinical decision making, communication, a management plan and regular reassessment. It is a framework for managing treatment – it aims to support, but does not replace, clinical judgement, he said.
In January, the Department of Health announced Baroness Julia Neuberger as independent Chair to lead a review into the use and experience of the Liverpool Care Pathway.
The NHS National End of Life Care Programme will support the review, which will report to Department of Health Ministers and the NHS Commissioning Board by summer 2013.
The work aims to build upon the commitment of a range of national organisations to learn from people's experiences of care in the last days of life, so that improvements can be made.
Dr Hooper said: "I'm sure there will be changes and everyone is waiting for what the national review says. Education, training and awareness of dying in hospital is vital."