Thursday, November 08, 2012

'Death' pathway: Government acts

Health minister Norman Lamb has announced an investigation into the way the Liverpool Care Pathway is used. Doctors and patients' groups are to meet together to look into mistakes and discuss improvements.

The pathway is intended for dying patients. It allows for food, water and medication to be withdrawn and for patients to be sedated in the last hours or days of life.

There have been claims that families have not been consulted or told that patients were being placed on the pathway, and that patients have been placed on the pathway who were not dying, with fatal results.

The NHS constitution is to specify the need for patients and families to be consulted before a patient is placed on the pathway. It will say that patients should be involved fully in all discussions and decisions about their care, including end-of-life care, and that, where appropriate, this right includes family and carers.

I have written about the Liverpool Care Pathway here, here and here.

Newspaper reports may have exaggerated the numbers of people placed on the pathway improperly. But where issues of life and death are involved, as here, it is proper that there should be a comprehensive investigation.