NCPC condemns 'shocking' NHS report findings

16 February 2011
The National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) has described as 'shocking' the findings of a report into the care of older people by the NHS released last week by the Health Service Ombudsman.

Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of the NCPC and the Dying Matters Coalition, said: "This shocking report is a call to action. Failures of end of life care of this magnitude should not be tolerated.

"We only get one chance to get it right for dying people and their bereaved families who live with the memories of loved ones dying badly.

"We should judge the NHS on how it cares for frail, older people who are dying as much as we do by hospital survival rates. It should be something that managers lose sleep over and people lose jobs over when it goes wrong in this systemic way."

The NCPC said issues highlighted by the Care and Compassion report are not new. In 2007 the Healthcare Commission reported that 54% of the most serious complaints it received related in some way to end of life care.

The NCPC believes that one of the critical issues is lack of training in end of life care. A survey of 900 nurses carried out in November 2010 by Nursing Times magazine revealed that 69% of nurses felt they did not have sufficient skills or time to talk to patients about dying, and 72% that their anxiety around end of life care was due to a lack of training. A quarter of those surveyed described themselves as acute sector staff nurses

The NCPC is working to address this lack of confidence with healthcare professionals, initially targetting GPs. Professor Mayur Lakhani, Chair of the NCPC and the Dying Matters Coalition and a practising GP, said: 

"We are helping to raise the confidence of GPs to have conversations about end of life care through a new and well evaluated  training tool.

"One of the advantages of putting clinicians in charge of commissioning is that we will be able to put the needs of our patients first. My colleagues in the new GP commissioning consortia should ensure that good end of life care is at the top of their must get right list."

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