NHS Hospitals receive failing mark on caring for the dying

About half of all deaths in the U.K happen in hospitals. Unfortunately, dying patients apparently do not receive proper care and are not treated with dignity in many NHS hospitals.

In the National Care of the Dying Audit for Hospitals, which analyzed the death of over 6,500 patients in 149 NHS hospitals in May, experts from the Royal College of Physicians and the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute found the care given to dying patients in many hospitals were "unacceptable".

In many cases, healthcare workers were aware that the patients were dying but failed to inform the patient about this. Of the dying patients who were still capable of conversation, for instance, less than half were informed that they were dying.

Many dying patients also appear to be disregarded when it comes to clinical discussions as only 17 percent of the surveyed patients were informed that they were evaluated to determine if they require artificial nutrition and hydration

Bereaved loved ones were also affected by the poor quality of care with 24 percent of the surveyed bereaved relatives and friends claiming that they feel left out when it comes to decisions for the patient's care and treatment. About 37 percent also said that they receive either fair or poor emotional support from the medical team.

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

John Ellershaw, from the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute, expressed concern that too many patients die badly in NHS hospitals.

 "It is disappointing that hospitals don't seem to recognise this as an important issue," said study author Kevin Stewart, from the RCP, "Everyone wants to know that if they are in the same situation, their needs and those of their families, friends and those important to them will be met, with clinically appropriate treatment, sensitivity and compassion."

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