Number of Sunderland patients placed on controversial end-of-life treatment doubles

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THE number of people being placed on a controversial end-of-life treatment in Sunderland has doubled.

The Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) sees medics stop food and fluids, and administer strong pain relief to aid death.

The scheme was implemented in hospitals three years ago to promote quality end-of-life care.

Half of all patients who die in hospital are placed on it.

In Sunderland, 229 patients were put on the scheme between 2010 and 2011.

That has since almost doubled to 446 between 2012 to 2013.

While other North East trusts have received six-figure sums from the Department of Health to use the pathway under Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (Cquin), Sunderland Royal Hospital has not received any direct payments.

A spokesman for the city hospital said LCP is being used to enable staff to focus on care in the last hours or days of life, and tailor it to their needs.

He said: “We received no direct funding from the PCT to implement LCP, but we do have a full End of Life steering group, and an End of Life modernisation facilitator.

“It is their role to promote LCP throughout the trust – improving care at the end of life, and dealing with the associated difficult conversations.

“Recognising that someone is dying can be complex, therefore the LCP is used following multi-disciplinary review, with senior clinical decision-making, communication, a management plan, and regular reassessment.

“This work is part and parcel of what we do on a day-to-day basis, and no additional funding was received.”

The Care Pathway was developed by Royal Liverpool University and Liverpool’s Marie Curie Hospice in the 1990s and about 85 per cent of hospitals now use it.

Since being put into use in North East hospitals it has received more than 20 complaints from families.

A spokesman for the North East’s clinical commissioning groups said: “Some providers have Cquins in their contracts that relate to the quality of end-of-life care.

“These are concerned with improving communication and the support for families after the death of their loved ones, improving care for patients in the community, and helping to improve how providers assess the effectiveness of the care people receive.”