There has been a lot in the news recently about NHS hospitals putting elderly patients on a ‘pathway to death’ implying doctors are just bumping off their patients when they become too much trouble. They have even suggested there is some sort of sinister deal to pay them to do this. Honestly, like NHS staff aren’t putting up with enough crap at the moment!
So what is the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) really about?
In a nutshell it aims to help patients in the last days or hours of their life, to be as comfortable as possible and die with dignity. The LCP brings together medical research and experience on what should and should not be done to/for patients at this time.
For example, at this stage there may be little point continuing to take bloods or test their urine or even bother them by taking their temperature or blood pressure and the LCP clarifies this so ward staff don’t keep doing these things out of habit when they are no longer of benefit to the patient.
Far from being something to worry about, the LCP is nationally and internationally recognised as best practice in caring for patients at the end of their lives.
That’s not to say the system is perfect, and where it can fall down is communicating with the patient’s relatives about the stage they are at, which is what I think is at the root of a lot of issues that have been reported.
Talking about death is hard, even for doctors and nurses, so while they try to explain to them what is happening it’s not unheard of for an inexperienced medic to resort to euphemisms like ‘there’s not much more we can do’ or ‘we may be near the end’ and for relatives to not fully grasp what is about to happen and be shocked when the patient then passes away, in their mind with no warning.
Obviously, that is not acceptable but it’s a long way from doctors killing patients for cash.
I could now go into a long explanation of commissioning in the NHS to clarify why hospitals get extra money for doing things that are considered to be good ideas, like putting dying patients on the LCP, but to save us all that pain I’ll instead just ask ‘would you really believe doctors are killing people for cash?’
NHS processes are often disorganised, sometimes uncaring and occasionally just downright mistaken but torturing and murdering people? Come on!
The real bad guys here are cynical journalists once again sensationalising something quite simple and as a result causing a huge amount of distress to people who have a friend or relative nearing the end of their life, a time when it is so important that they feel they can trust the NHS to be doing the right thing for their loved one. I can’t believe they get away with this stuff.