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Trusts must improve support for bereaved families

GPs can use guidance as best practice for helping families

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 12 July 2018

NHS trusts are being instructed on how to improve their support and engagement with families of relatives that have died while being treated, in new guidance issued yesterday.

NHS England has worked with families, carers, professionals and a range of other stakeholders to develop the new guidance for trusts on how to engage with bereaved families and carers. Families’ feedback and comments helped shape the guidance.

Authors of the guidance said other care providers such as GPs in primary care, hospices and private providers could also use the document as a best practice guide to involving families.

The new national guidance has been published in response to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report Learning, candour and accountability: A review of the way NHS trusts review and investigate the deaths of patients in England, published in 2016.

That report emphasised that significant improvements in how trusts engaged with families were required, including the recognition that families’ experiences and insights were a valuable source of learning, and that families and carers should be treated as equal partners to identify opportunities for improvement.

In the new guidance, trusts, foundation trusts, and services commissioned by NHS specialised commissioning, are given advice on expected practice on how to engage, and work effectively with families following a death.

It is accompanied by information for bereaved families, which trusts should share with families following bereavement as a supplement to their own information and resources available about bereavement and support for families.

The guidance is a part of the Learning from Deaths programme and complements other guidance developed as part of the broader programme being led by the National Quality Board (NQB).

The authors said the guidance had the potential to reduce trauma to the bereaved, help boost learning from deaths, and make sure that a consistent, quality approach to engagement with families was in place across England.

The CQC said it would monitor the implementation of the guidance through its inspections and ongoing monitoring in NHS acute, community and mental health hospital trusts.

In the guidance foreword, officials including Steve Powis, national medical director for NHS England and Ted Baker, CQC chief inspector of hospitals, said: “Families’ insights and experiences have shaped the guidance.

“Some have spoken of not being treated with respect, sensitivity and honesty at the worst point of their lives. This is especially the case in circumstances where there may have been or were issues with the care provided.

“We know that some trusts have already made significant progress on how they engage with families. Change is happening and there are already good examples to learn from and implement in other areas. However, we must continue to move forward and involve families and carers in this change.

“We believe that the principles set out in this guidance will help trusts and commissioners to identify where they can make improvements in how they engage with families; and how they involve families in improving systems and processes.”

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