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Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Majority of nurses believe winter pressures led to poorer end-of-life care

Written by Ella Pickover

Three quarters of NHS nurses believe that winter pressures on the NHS have hampered their ability to care for dying patients.

A new poll found that 77% of nurses said that strain on the system over the colder months has had a negative effect on the quality of care they are able to provide to dying patients.

Four in 10 (43%) think the impact has been worse this year than last year.

The survey of 600 nurses, by Nursing Standard and the charity Marie Curie, also found that 65% of nurses say they do not have sufficient time to provide high quality care for patients who are dying.

Staffing levels and time constraints were the main barriers identified to providing high quality care, followed by a lack of care provision in the community.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of nurses also raised concerns that many patients are dying in hospital and unable to get home due to funding problems or lack of community care.

A nurse responding to the survey said: "I have unfortunately experienced patients without families dying alone in rooms due to staff shortages.

"I am often unable to attend to families right away following the death of a loved one due to needing to administer medications."

Anne Cleary, deputy director of nursing for Marie Curie, said: "The results illustrate the unsustainable pressure being placed on nurses while they shoulder the huge responsibility of caring for people at the end of their lives.

"Nurses have told us that they are caring for more and more people who are dying in hospital when they don't need to be there.

"Now, more than ever, we need to support them by investing in community care so that people can get the nursing they need at the end of their lives outside of hospitals, in a place of their choosing."

Eleanor Sherwen, the Royal College of Nursing's professional lead for end of life and palliative care, added: "We only have one chance to get end-of-life care right.

"How people die remains in the memories of their loved ones for a long time."

Labour called on the Government to ensure that the NHS has the resources it needs to deliver appropriate end-of-life care.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "It's just unacceptable that patients are dying alone in hospitals because there are too few staff to spend time with them."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "We know nurses across the NHS are working tirelessly this winter to ensure patients approaching the end of life get the care, compassion and support they need.

"We are committed to improving services for patients needing end-of-life care - by 2020 we want every patient to have personalised care and to die in a place of their choosing."

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