There has been a lot of discussion in the UK media in the last week or so about the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) approach to dealing well with the end of life in hospitals: a matter of great importance to older people and those who care for them. Inevitably perhaps there has been misunderstanding and misreporting, with the Minister of State calling a meeting to discuss worries about it - BBC News.
Age UK has very helpfully blogged this about the LCP and dying in hospital, pointing out that for older people coming to the end of their life 'poor experiences tend to arise because their healthcare team has not identified that they may die in the next hours or days; their care is not being planned appropriately; families are not provided with emotional, spiritual and practical support. Resolving these issues can even mean someone doesn’t need to be in hospital at all, allowing them to die at home which is frequently preferred'.
My feeling is that no protocols or procedures that deal with people, especially those at their most vulnerable, should be allowed to become routine to the point where they begin to loose their purpose and impact - and so it is good for us to be reminded from time to time why we do things as we do. But this issue is too important to be at the mercy of a mainstream media that often picks up a issue, throws it around a bit, and then moves on; or indeed of political imperatives to the seen to be acting even if in the absence of, or against, the best available evidence. I think that in an environment of widespread disruption to hospitals, their governance, funding and staffing, it is up to us all to be vigilant about attacks on initiatives like the LCP that aim to promote dignity in care.