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NICE publishes new end of life care quality standard

30th November 2011

NICE, the healthcare guidance body, has today (30 November) published its new quality standard for end of life care for adults.
 
NICE quality standards (QS) are a set of specific, succinct statements and measures that describe aspirational but achievable care for adult patients across the NHS in England. They are developed in collaboration with the NHS and social care sectors, using the best available evidence, such as NICE guidance or other NHS Evidence accredited sources.
 
Around half a million people die each year in England and the issues considered to be important at this time can differ enormously from one person to another. Preparation for death, communication with carers and physicians that is sensitive and responsive, and being treated with dignity and respect are often deemed significant.
 
This new quality standard includes 16 statements for the care of adults (18 years and older) with advanced, progressive, or incurable conditions who are approaching the end of their life and are expected to die within the next 12 months. The end of life definition also includes adults with existing conditions who are at risk of dying from a sudden, acute crisis in their condition, or those with life-threatening acute conditions caused by sudden catastrophic events. The standard also covers support for the families and carers of such people.
 
The quality standard statements include:

  • People approaching the end of life and their families and carers are communicated with, and offered information, in an accessible and sensitive way in response to their needs and preferences.
  • People approaching the end of life are offered spiritual and religious support appropriate to their needs and preferences.
  • People approaching the end of life have their physical and specific psychological needs safely, effectively and appropriately met at any time of day or night, including access to medicines and equipment.
  • People closely affected by a death are communicated with in a sensitive way and are offered immediate and ongoing bereavement, emotional and spiritual support appropriate to their needs and preferences.

Dr Fergus Macbeth, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE said: "The end of life quality standard recognises that compassion, kindness and consideration are hugely important for all those involved in caring for people at the end of their life. Patients should have their voices heard in decisions about their care, be treated as individuals, with dignity, sensitivity and respect and be offered appropriate psychological, social and spiritual support. They also want to be assured that their families and carers will receive support during their illness and following their death. I'm sure this standard will be welcomed as a useful aid during what is inevitably a very difficult and highly emotional time."
 
Simon Chapman, Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs at the National Council for Palliative Care, said: "We only get one chance to get it right for people at the end of their lives, which is why it is so important to ensure high quality end of life care is universal. We welcome NICE's emphasis that people should get the care they need “at any time of day and night”. This is a powerful but necessary challenge to the NHS to ensure that people approaching the end of life receive the support and care they need, where and when they need it. Local services now need to deliver and be held accountable to this quality standard."
 
The quality standard is available on the NICE website from Wednesday, 30 November at:
 
http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qualitystandards/indevelopment/endoflifecare.jsp

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