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Independent chair to oversee reviews of Liverpool Care Pathway

DH made announcement following round-table discussion amid ongoing concerns

Caroline White

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Department of Health is to appoint an independent chair to oversee and coordinate the activities of the three reviews currently under way of the Liverpool Care Pathway, it has emerged.

The move follows a round-table discussion led by care and support minister Norman Lamb, at the Department of Health yesterday.

The discussion, to which doctors, ethicists and patient representatives were invited, follows a spate of adverse publicity about the Pathway, which is intended to ease the end of life for patients close to death.

But the media reports have stoked fears that it is being used by doctors to hasten the end of life and free up beds.

A Department of Health spokeswoman told OnMedica that the minister wanted to address ongoing concerns in what has become a polarised issue by appointing an independent chair to coordinate the three reviews.

The chair who has not yet been selected, will be charged with reporting back in the new year. Part of the remit will be to look at the value of local incentives (CQUIN) and whether these are distorting decision-making.

One of the main issues to emerge from the meeting was the often poor communication between healthcare professionals and patients and their families, said the DH spokesperson.

The three reviews include one by the Association of Palliative Medicine, which is looking at the role of healthcare professionals, while the charity Dying Matters is looking at the experience of patients and their families.

The third review, which is being undertaken by the National End of Life Care Programme, focuses on complaints generated by the pathway and end of life care in hospitals.

Following yesterday’s meeting, Norman Lamb said: “Care for the dying is an emotive issue and is never an easy subject to discuss. I am grateful to those who attended the roundtable and shared their views and experiences with me this afternoon.

It is clear that everyone wants their loved ones’ final hours of life to be as pain free and dignified as possible, and the Liverpool Care Pathway is an important part of achieving this aim. “

But he added: “There have been too many cases where patients were put on the Pathway without a proper explanation or their families being involved. This is simply unacceptable. “

“It is vitally important that everyone can be confident in the findings of this work – and that we learn lessons where they are needed, so we can ensure that end of life care is as good as it can be,” said the minister.

Claire Henry, Director of the National End of Life Care Programme, said the discussions had been constructive.

“We were pleased to contribute to an informed debate on how improvements can continue to be made,” she said, emphasising: “A main priority is to ensure that this work is undertaken transparently.”

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