Family members who have witnessed loved ones undergo a controversial end-of-life regime, which can involve withholding food and drink from terminally ill patients, are being asked to share their experiences with health officials.
People who have seen family or friends on the Liverpool Care Pathway are being invited to put forward their thoughts to a review into use of the regime at hospitals and care homes.
The review, chaired by crossbench peer Baroness Julia Neuberger, will hear evidence from patients, families and health professionals before reporting to ministers and the NHS Commissioning Board this summer.
The LCP - which recommends that in some circumstances doctors withdraw treatment, food and water from sedated patients in their final days - has come under intense scrutiny recently.
Reports suggest that doctors are establishing “death lists” of patients to be put on the pathway. Articles also claim that hospitals might be employing the method to cut costs and save bed spaces.
But medics have argued that the pathway has “transformed” end-of-life care, saying it can offer peaceful, pain-free deaths when used properly.
Care and support minister Norman Lamb said: “Experts agree the LCP, if applied properly, can help patients die a dignified and pain-free death, but, as we have seen, there have been too many unacceptable cases where patients or their families were ignored or not properly involved in decisions. There have also been reports of food and fluids being denied to people inappropriately.
“It is vital for relatives to have complete confidence in the care that their loved ones are receiving. This is why we want to hear from people with experience of the LCP, where it met the high standards expected and where things went wrong.
“I urge people to get in touch to share their experiences, so we can ensure that lessons are learned and things put right.”
Baroness Neuberger said: “I am honoured to have been asked to lead this review. It will tackle a really important area of concern and, I hope, be able to make recommendations that will improve how dying people are treated within our health and social care system.”