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Discuss prognosis to boost care, study says

A failure to talk about how long patients have left to live is leaving hospital care lacking, Sheffield researchers have found.

Experts from Sheffield University’s school of nursing and midwifery say there is a ‘significant gap’ between official NHS policy for people nearing the end of their lives, and current hospital practice.

A report produced by the university team said a lack of communication between medical staff and patients, and their families, ‘severely limits’ their ability to be involved in important decisions.

Researchers found many patients would like to discuss their outlook with doctors.

One doctor - who is quoted in the study anonymously - revealed that prognosis is not routinely discussed in hospitals.

“Quite often breaking bad news to a patient can be pretty difficult,” the medic said.

“Unless the patient asks for their prognosis we don’t tell them.”

The project involved more than 500 patients and 50 medical workers.

Project manager Dr Clare Gardiner said: “Clinicians need much more support and training to help them provide appropriate palliative care.

“It’s hugely important that people at the end of their life are helped by skilled clinicians to make decisions about what happens to them. After all, we only have one opportunity to get it right.”

Principal investigator Prof Christine Ingleton added: “Most people want to make choices about the care and treatment they receive at the end of life.

“Our research shows that a failure on the part of health professionals to discuss prognosis and goals of care means that many are not given this opportunity.”

The report is published in the NIHR Journals Library.

 

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