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Is criticism of Liverpool Care Pathway unfair?
IT IS the issue that has caused a storm of controversy among Daily Echo readers.
Families concerned about the care of elderly relatives, NHS workers and antieuthanasia campaigners have all got in touch with their views on a controversial scheme to treat dying patients.
The Daily Echo investigation on Saturday aimed to discover the facts about the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), which health bosses say ensures terminally ill patients get the right care.
It was in response to national headlines that called the system a “scandal” – and claimed that patients were being put on the pathway without the consent of their relatives.
Disturbing stories about the LCP – including those of loved-ones being denied food and drink in their dying days – have led some families to reject it.
But experts in Southampton have said that the pathway has been unfairly “demonised”.
We questioned healthcare authorities to unearth the facts behind LCP, who told us:
- The pathway is only used when a team caring for the patient agrees that the patient is dying.
- Patients are not starved to death – those on the LCP are “actively dying” and at that stage nutrition and hydration is not needed. Foods and fluids are not routinely withheld.
- According to health bosses in Southampton, whenever possible patients, families, carers and staff are all involved in an open discussion before starting the LCP.
- The pathway does not cause a patient to die and there are cases when people get better and are taken off the LCP.
The University Hospital Southampton (UHS), which runs Southampton General Hospital and Princess Anne Hospital and the Countess Mountbatten House, was one of the first waves of trusts to implement the LCP five years ago.
They say it is about making dying as peaceful as it can be for both patients and their relatives, and it is an approach that has been backed by leading health organisations and charities – including Marie Curie, the Royal College of Nursing and Macmillan.
Southampton General Hospital previously had around 50 per cent of all its adult dying patients on the LCP – but the recent negative media coverage has caused that to drop.
And since the Daily Echo covered the issue on Saturday, we have been inundated with online comments and letters about LCP.
Here we take another look at the debate, and reveal some of your views and experiences.
‘They did a fantastic job, but there was no consultation’
SHE will never be forgotten.
But along with memories of the life of Hampshire mum Becki Drabble, her loved-ones have also
been left with a long list of unanswered questions about her care.
Becki, 45, had battled cervical cancer since 2008, undergoing numerous treatments and operations.
In September 2012, she was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham with pains in her legs – initially thought to have been caused by a trapped nerve.
But further investigations revealed that tumours were growing from her pelvis, cutting off blood supply.
It was a devastating diagnosis – but her husband Gerald, 41, from Fareham, says he was not properly consulted about his wife’s care.
The couple only realised by accident that Becki had been put on the controversial Liverpool Care
Pathway (LCP) – even though they had spoken to a consultant about Becki’s prognosis.
According to Mr Drabble, fluids were withdrawn and within hours Becki, who has two young sons, had died.
Mr Drabble explains: “I was greatly upset that nobody told me.
“I said to a nurse: ‘Any chance Becki could have a cup of tea?’ and she said she wasn’t sure because Becki was on the LCP.
“That was the first we knew about it.
“When I had earlier been called in to talk to the consultant, it was just a case of him saying: ‘We think we’re in the final stages of life.’
“With the greatest respect, they did a fantastic job and I can’t find fault with the care she got.
“But the consultation and being briefed on what was happening just disappeared – there was none at all.
“I want to know why it was deemed necessary to put her on the LCP. I’m thinking now, could she have been saved? Would it have let her linger if she hadn’t gone on LCP? Could we be bringing her home?
“But as hard as it is, I try not to dwell on that question because someone could give me an answer I don’t want to hear.
“Life goes on and we have had to get on with it.”
Mr Drabble has written to QA, asking for his questions to be addressed.
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, told the Daily Echo that they were
investigating Mr Drabble’s query.
A trust spokesperson said: “Patient care and experience is, and will always remain, the highestpriority for the trust and feedback is much valued.
“The trust has open correspondence with this gentleman and we are unable to provide comments on this individual case."