NHS nursing staff will soon be embracing a new approach to providing palliative care to end-of-life patients within hospitals.
The new Priorities for Care system has been unveiled by the Department of Health this week as the new basis for looking after people approaching the end of their lives. It focuses on giving compassionate care, moving away from previous processes and protocols, such as the recently abandoned Liverpool Care Pathway.
Its overall aim is to enshrine an understanding that in many cases, enabling an individual to plan for death should start well before a person reaches the end of their life, and should therefore be an integral part of personalised and proactive care.
Five key priorities have been outlined, including clear communication of the possibility that a person may die within the coming days and hours, with subsequent decisions to be made in accordance with their needs and wishes.
Sensitive communication must then take place between staff and anyone affected, before the dying patient and their loved ones are consulted on decisions about their treatment and care. Ensuring that people important to the patient are listened to and their needs respected is also an important priority.
Finally, care needs to be tailored to the individual and delivered with compassion, including the fact that a person must be supported to eat and drink as long as they wish to do so.
The new priorities have been created by a coalition of 21 organisations known as the Leadership Alliance for the Care of Dying People, which will now be working to embed these priorities into every aspect of their work, from initial training through to inspection.
Care and support minister Norman Lamb said: "There are many shining examples in the NHS of excellent end-of-life care, and I am committed to making sure that care in the last few days and hours of life is tailored to the needs of each individual.
"It's also important that, where possible, planning for dying should start well before the last few days and hours of someone's life, where they want to have those discussions."
Combined with recent efforts to move the focus of palliative care to home-based settings, these steps will help to ensure NHS patients can be assured of high-quality treatment from their first moments to their last.
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