We need an end to life of this policy

Health chiefs in the Bradford district have leapt to the defence of the use of the controversial end-of-life care pathway – dubbed “pathway to death” by some national newspapers – and why wouldn’t they? Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust qualified for payments of £490,000 over two years after doubling the number of patients dying on the pathway to 51 per cent.

There is no doubt that terminally-ill patients need a proper standard of care and a carefully-planned, dignified death if the end is inevitable – which is, perhaps, the ultimate goal of this newspaper’s With Respect... Campaign to improve the way elderly people are treated in our society.

There is nothing more distressing for an older person or their relatives than a painful and difficult end to their days.

But therein lies the rub. The mere fact that hospitals are incentivised to adopt a policy which can involve withdrawing treatment and refusing food and water is bound to raise the suspicion and fear that mistakes will be made and patients put on the “pathway” before their time has truly come.

According to some of the cases cited in the national press that has happened too many times already – and patients whose relatives have intervened have seen them fully recover and continue to live a fulfilling life.

The basic truth here is that hospitals should not need financial incentives to ensure that patients receive proper care when they are dying and the sooner this scheme is dropped and replaced by sanctions against those who don’t provide the care they should be giving anyway, the better for everyone concerned.

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