According to data acquired by the Care Quality Commission, over 40% of hospitals in the NHS are currently offering palliative care that could be described as the poor or indifferent.
Official figures from NHS inspections have revealed that care for the dying leaves considerable room for improvement.
Data from the Care Quality Commission reveals that 67 hospitals have been rated as “requiring improvement” for their end-of-life care while a further seven have been branded “inadequate”.
Clearly there have been logistical difficulties for the health service recently, but the severity of these figures underline the scope of the problem.
Commenting on the issue, Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, indicated that she is deeply concerned about the issue, and that it must be addressed in the immediate future.
“For patients receiving palliative care, there is only one chance to get treatment right and give patients safe and compassionate end-of-life care. There must be increased leadership and training to help staff provide humane care for dying patients,” Murphy stated.
In addition to the number of hospitals considered to be inadequate, it is also clear that there are few truly outstanding performers in the NHS.
Indeed, only eight of the 176 services services inspected since 2013 were able to achieve this ranking.
94 hospitals were rated as good, indicating that just over 100 institutions in the NHS are offering a standard of care that could be considered acceptable.
Rabbi Julia Neuberger, who led an investigation into care of the dying in 2013, is of the opinion that standards in the NHS across the country are patchy, and have considerable room for improvement.
“I still think there is some poor practice,” Neuberger commented. “They need to get their act together.”
Neuberger also suggested that specialised palliative care advice should be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in order to provide the dying with dignity and satisfactory support.
Professor Sir Mike Richards, the Care Quality Commision’s chief inspector of hospitals, indicated that the inspectorate had decided in 2014 to make end-of-life care one of their priorities due to their awareness of the problem in the NHS.
Three of the seven hospitals rated inadequate for end of life care are part of the Barts NHS Trust in London.
The trust stated that it recognised that some aspects of its end of life care were not as good as they should have been.
“We recognise there is still more to be done and we are committed to meeting our aim for every person to be treated with dignity and humanity.”