Hospitals fail to inform family members of those close to death

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

An audit by the Royal College of physicians exposed hospitals for not informing family members when loved ones are on the verge of dying and instead ‘deal in euphemisms’ rather than being truthful with the family members.

A survey showed that 1 in 20 people were not informed about the critical state of a patient because doctors could not admit that that patient would not recover.

However a new audit was carried out of 9000 patients, which suggested an improvement on ‘end of life care’s ‘ behalf, as it was found that there was a lot of variation across the country.

It was found that in some trusts, as few as one in five dying patients had their medication reviewed in their final 24 hours, while 90% of dying patients were not assessed to find whether they were in need of assistance in order to drink water.

Doctors had included a “do not resuscitate” order in a large amount of dying patient’s notes, although it was discovered that 18% of these orders were not discussed with family members.

A member of the Royal College of Nursing, Ms Cheesley, expressed an interesting idea, that all hospital staff whether it be porters, catering staff or doctors who have contact with dying patients should be trained on how to communicate with them, further explaining how some people are terrified, and would cross the road to avoid talking to someone who is dying.

“We mustn’t do that in hospitals we need to be there. If someone is distressed, then find out why and if I can’t deal with it, find someone who can.”

Dr Kevin Stewart, medical director of the RCP’s clinical effectiveness and evaluation unit, followed with: “We are disappointed that there are still major deficiencies in the provision of specialist palliative care at nights and weekends by many trusts; patients and their families deserve the same level of service whatever the day of the week.”

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