By Ian Dipple Tuesday 06 August 2013 Updated: 16/08 11:04
HEALTH bosses have defended a controversial end of life care plan suggesting misuse of the guidance was behind failings and not the system itself.
The Government has called for the phasing out of the Liverpool Care Pathway after a review heard harrowing stories from patients of fluids being withdrawn unnecessarily, drugs being administered inappropriately, poor communication with patients and rushed care.
The pathway was developed by Marie Curie in the 1990s to give people who were clearly dying a dignified death. It has been used in Worcestershire since 2005.
But Dr Ian Douglas, a consultant in palliative medicine for Worcestershire Health and Care Trust, told a meeting of the county council's health overview and scrutiny committee the pathway itself was not the issue but the advice it set out had not been followed by a small number of professionals. Thatm he said, resulted in huge distress to families and possibly untimely deaths and misreporting in the media had also helped create a number of misconceptions around the plan which had detracted from its benefits.
Dr John Chambers, a consultant in palliative medicine for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, added one of the weaknesses of the pathway was it was too rigid which contributed to it being misinterpreted.
"Some people literally followed a set of instructions," he said.
But health chiefs insisted the plan is a small part of end of life care and a lot of progress had been made in Worcestershire over the last five years to support more people to die in the way they wanted and at home or in the community. As a result the number of people dying in the county's hospitals has dropped from about 45 per cent to around 38 per cent.
Measures have included investment in more palliative care consultants, Macmillan nurses, educating GPs, making sure out of hours doctors and the ambulance service are aware of people's wishes and encouraging people to talk more about how and where they wanted to die.
But Coun Jim Parish told the meeting of a catalogue of failures in his wife's care who died at the Worcestershire Royal recently, including failure to give water,
oxygen and drugs. An order not to resuscitate her at the end of her life was also given which he was not consulted on. An investigation is now underway.
Dr Felix Blaine, clinical champion for end of life care, said to hear of the case was 'really distressing', adding: "This has one of the most major impacts on people, everybody has lost people in their lives, it's a really emotive subject.
"It's also the reason we've done so much work trying to get this right.
"We have made a really big impact but things aren't right."
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