Lack of training and official guidance means hospital staff are often failing to treat dead patients with dignity, an investigation by HSJ’s sister title Nursing Times has found.

An audit by North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust last January found problems in the way 47 out of 80 deceased patients were dealt with, for example unsecured dressings resulting in leakages or patients not being cleaned properly.

Similar problems with “last offices” procedures  have been identified by audits at North Bristol Trust, Salisbury Foundation Trust and Southampton University Hospitals Trust.

A repeat of the North Tees audit, carried out this year following a staff training programme, revealed significant improvements. The other trusts have also made attempts to improve practice.

North Tees nursing director Sue Smith said: “Performing last offices is the final thing we can do for our patient. This is an important aspect of maintaining patient and carer dignity.”