Sheffield professor involved with new palliative care guidance

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A Sheffield University professor who chairs a committee behind new guidance on palliative care says dying people should be treated with respect and compassion and doctors should not make ‘snap’ decisions about their care.

New guidance has been issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence stating that doctors should seek support to help diagnose ‘dying’ and should look to create an individual care plan involving the patient and their families.

NICE’s new guidance on caring for people when death is imminent is an attempt to move away from the heavily-criticised Liverpool Care Pathway, which was phased out last year after an expert review found a ‘tick-box’ culture was leading to dying people being put on the pathway without the knowledge of their families.

Under the new guidance, doctors and nurses must look for signs that the person may be recovering - even temporarily - or indeed stabilising.

People should also be reviewed daily and doctors must look to relieve symptoms experienced by those close to death.

Sam Ahmedzai, a professor of palliative medicine at the University of Sheffield and chairman of the committee which developed the new guidance, said: “The Liverpool Care Pathway was originally developed to help the NHS provide ‘a good death’ for people at the end of their lives.

“However, its implementation became increasingly controversial over the years with stories of fluids and medicines being withheld, over-sedating the dying person.

“There were also problems with inexperienced staff recognising when someone was truly close to death, or if they had a possibility of recovery. It became seen as a ‘tick-box exercise’ and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.”

He said there was ‘no excuse’ for individual doctors making ‘snap’ decisions about people in their final hours without consulting more senior doctors or a specialist palliative care team.