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Care of the dying compromised by NHS pressures

Nurses say they do not have enough time to provide quality care

Mark Gould

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Over two thirds of UK nurses feel they don’t have sufficient time to provide high quality care for patients who are dying.

A survey of nearly 1,000 nurses and healthcare assistants by palliative care charity Marie Curie in association with the Nursing Standard magazine reveals that the day-to-day pressures of working in the NHS are compromising efforts to care for patients at the end of their lives.

More than two thirds (67%) surveyed said they did not have sufficient time to provide high quality care to dying patients.

More than half of nurses (59%) had “often” seen dying patients stuck unnecessarily in hospital, due to delays in funding and community provision to support them. Only 6% had never seen this happen.

One of the nurses in the survey commented: “The biggest frustration in my job is not being able to get patients who are coming to the end of their lives out of hospital in time. I find it distressing and it is hard to switch off when I get home because it isn’t right.”

The survey identified other significant barriers to providing high quality care, including low staffing levels (68%), lack of specialist palliative care support (33%) and lack of community services, such as services in patients’ homes, care homes or hospices (33%).

Marie Curie said it was "worrying" that more than 40% of the nurses and healthcare assistants surveyed said they had not received any specific training in end-of-life care, even though more than two thirds said this was part of their role.

However, over half said they were fairly confident in talking to patients about their needs and wishes towards the end of their life, and a third said they were very confident.

Dee Sissons, Director of Nursing at Marie Curie, said: “Whilst it is encouraging to see that many nurses feel confident about talking to patients about their needs and wishes, we can’t dispute the evidence that the majority of nurses don’t feel that they have time to provide high quality care to their dying patients. It is also worrying to see that many dying patients with limited time left are stuck unnecessarily in hospital due to delays in funding and community provision to support them.

“Caring for people at the end of life can be emotionally draining but also incredibly rewarding. To provide the best possible care for patients, staff must have the time to develop their skills and access appropriate and timely training and support from the very start.”

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