UK & World News
'Too Many Hospital Patients Are Dying In Pain'
Too many patients in English hospitals are dying in pain and not being consulted about the end of their lives, says a new report.
The Royal College of Physicians found fewer than half of all patients received pain relief in the last 24 hours of their life, despite the view of some medical professionals that around 80% of patients are likely to need painkillers.
In the vast majority of cases doctors and nurses knew when a patient was in the last days of their life but did not discuss this with the patient themselves.
"50% of people who die in England do so in hospitals, but we found that this is still not core business for hospitals," said Dr Kevin Stewart, clinical director at the Royal College of Physicians.
"Many patients have a satisfactory experience, but there are still far too many for whom this is a very negative experience, and we don't want that to happen."
One hospice director said consulting patients about the end of their life was a key part of their care.
"We consult very closely with patients and families trying to anticipate with them what's going to happen," said Dr Ros Taylor, director at the Hospice of St Francis.
"Most people want to know where they're going to die. They really want to know what support is available.
"Most people cope very well with that conversation if it's held at that time with the right people.
"I think it's a really serious issue in hospitals because about a quarter of a million people die in hospitals at the moment.
"We hope that those numbers will decrease so that more people can die at home, but at the moment those numbers are enormous, so the quality of care has to improve."
The report surveyed 6,580 people who died in 149 hospitals in England in May 2013, and 858 bereaved relatives.
The NHS said it was considering the findings.