Advising with empathy and experience

Patients let down by end-of-life care.

Thousands of dying patients are being let down by poor end-of-life care provision, the health ombudsman has said.

A Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s report, Dying Without Dignity, detailed "tragic" cases where people's suffering could have been avoided or lessened. In one case, a patient had suffered 14 painful attempts to have a drip reinserted during his final hours.

A total of 265 complaints about end-of-life care have been investigated by The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in the past four years, upholding just more than half of them.

The report said it had found too many instances of poor communication, poor pain management and inadequate out-of-hours services.

One mother had told the ombudsman about how she had had to call an A&E doctor to come and give her son more pain relief because palliative care staff failed to respond to their requests.

In another case, a 67-year-old man's family learned of his terminal cancer diagnosis through a hospital note - before he knew himself. The Dying Without Dignity report said that this: "failed every principle of established good practice in breaking bad news. There was an avoidable delay in making a diagnosis. An earlier diagnosis would have meant opportunities for better palliative care."

In another case, Roberta Sullivan's husband John was diagnosed with untreatable bile duct cancer in 2012.  He was told he only had a few days or weeks to live, but his condition deteriorated rapidly overnight.

Mrs Sullivan said she was unable to be with him in his final moments because nursing staff had tried to get hold of her on the wrong number in the early hours of the morning. She said: "By the time we got up there they said 'we are ever so sorry but your husband has just died.’

"And they said ‘you know we did try to contact you’.  But when I phoned my employer she said ‘the hospital phoned twice in the night on the work number to try and contact you’. I was flabbergasted. I waited until eight o'clock and saw the sister and explained it to her.  And she said ‘the nurse is so sorry. She is devastated that she called the wrong number’ and the sister apologised."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "These are appalling cases - everyone deserves good quality care at the end of their lives. The five priorities for end-of-life care we brought in emphasise that doctors and nurses must involve patients and their families in decisions about their care, regularly review their treatment and share patients' choices to make sure their wishes are respected.

"NHS England is working on making these priorities a reality for everyone who needs end-of-life care."

 

 

 

 

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.