Hospital ‘cannot reveal’ end of life pathway figures

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Hospital chiefs say they cannot reveal how many patients were put on the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway during 2012.

Nationally, the end of life care has attracted criticism from the relatives of patients, with some saying they were not told that a loved one had been placed on the pathway until it was too late.

But it is unclear how many patients in Watford Hospital, which now covers Dacorum after Hemel Hempstead was downgraded to an urgent care centre, were put on the pathway.

West Herts Hospital Trust spokesman Paul Gough said: “The trust is unable to provide the number of patients places on the Liverpool Care Pathway as this information is recorded in individual patient records and is not held centrally.”

And the trust said that even if the Gazette submitted a Freedom of Information request the figures would still not be provided.

Hospice of St Francis boss Dr Ros Taylor has revealed that one of the charity’s doctors regularly visits Watford hospital to give training to junior doctors on how to deal with the sensitive issue.

“It is about doctors and nurses recognising that time is short and then having conversations with relatives and patients,” said Dr Taylor.

“What seems to have happened in some places is that the communication part has been missed out.”

The good cause is hoping to work more with hospitals and care homes in the future. “We would like to look into having hospital nurses come for placements at the hospice,” said Dr Taylor.

The Liverpool Care Pathway was introduced in the late 1990s to ease the suffering of the dying, but has been branded as ‘backdoor euthanasia’ by some critics. At first it was available to terminally ill cancer patients but has now been rolled out to all dying patients.

Mr Gough said: “As part of the trust’s policy for patients being considered for the Liverpool Care Pathway, a member of the palliative care team works closely with the patient or, where this is not possible, with their family and next of kin.”