Trusts will be inspected against new national priorities for end of life care, they have been warned.
A palliative care expert told HSJ health providers needed to begin the “hard work” of ensuring they met the priorities, which were published in guidance by an alliance of 21 organisations including NHS England and the Care Quality Commission earlier this month.
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They were produced in response to concerns about the way the Liverpool care pathway for dying patients was being implemented.
The CQC has confirmed it will use the new priorities in its inspection regime, which includes end of life care as one of eight core service areas, as well as carrying out thematic inspections on it during 2014-15 for a report in spring 2015.
CQC chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards said: “These are priorities which must be embraced across the whole NHS and by other care providers for it to make a real difference. The CQC is fully committed to ensuring the quality of end of life care continues to improve.”
Unlike the Liverpool care pathway, the approach set out in the new guidance is not a formal plan, but a set of ideals that include involving patients and families in decisions and actions as soon as possible with individual patients receiving their own specific plan. Decisions should be regularly reviewed and plans should include the provision of symptom control, food and drink and compassionate support.
Katherine Sleeman, clinical lecturer in palliative medicine at Kings College London, told HSJ trusts would need to work to ensure they were met.
She said: “Now the hard work starts. Every trust should have someone responsible for end of life care and it is their responsibility to read this report.
“These individuals need to take these five priorities of care and work out the best way to translate them into their setting. Many trusts will have been doing this for years, it’s not about starting from scratch.”
Dr Sleeman told HSJ that NHS organisations had to develop their own processes. She said: “What this absolutely is not is an instruction manual. These are aspirations of what good looks like. It tells us what we should be aiming for.”
However, she warned funding for good end of life care was the “elephant in the room”, highlighting that the report gives no indication how improvements in training or research would be paid for.
She said: “It doesn’t say how we are going to resource that. We get a very tiny amount of money allocated for research, where is the money going to come from. In the UK just 0.1 per cent of all medical research funding is allocated to palliative and end of life care research for example.”