HEALTH bosses in Gloucestershire have assured families that expert end-of-life care advice is only a phone call away for nurses, after a damning report on the NHS.
Only a fifth of hospitals across the country have specialist palliative care staff on duty at weekends according to an audit that claims many patients are needlessly dying “badly”.
Palliative care is classed as treatment which aims to relieve and prevent the pain and suffering of patients who are terminally ill.
Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal hospitals are among those which do not offer such face-to-face care seven days a week.
Sean Elyan, medical director for Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We do have 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week access to expert palliative care advice by telephone available to all our staff from those experts and the delivery of that service, which I think is a massive credit to the palliative care team across the county, delivering first-quality care for those patients.”
The National Care of the Dying Audit for Hospitals, led by the Royal College of Physicians and the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute, found significant variations in provision, quality and training of end-of-life care.
This audit recommends that people dying in hospital should get access to palliative care from at least 9am to 5pm, seven days a week – guidance which was demanded a decade ago.
A sample of 6,580 people who died at 149 NHS hospitals in England was audited last May and the report also contained the views of 858 bereaved relatives.
The trust’s website says inpatients at Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal are seen on wards Monday to Friday within 48 hours of receipt of medical referral, and the out-of-hours advice line is available to health professionals outside of normal working hours.
Outpatients also have access to three palliative care consultants who lead a team of specialist doctors and nurses.
Marie Curie Cancer Care said the trust has achieved a top score of five for “key performance indicators” for the prescriptions of medications for key end-of-life symptoms, but narrowly missed out on a similar rating regarding information relating to death and dying.