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NICE opens consultation for draft guidance on caring for dying patients

NICE says its new guidance begins to replace the now abolished Liverpool Care Pathway

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a draft guideline to support the NHS in providing high quality and compassionate care for people who are dying.

About 500,000 people die each year in England. It’s thought that the majority of these deaths – approximately 3 in 4 – are expected, but recognising when death is imminent can be challenging. The NICE guideline, which is in development, will help doctors and nurses identify when someone is entering their final few days of life.

It also provides guidance about the management of some common symptoms that may be experienced at the end of life and NICE says it places the individual and their loved ones at the heart of decisions about their care.

The draft NICE guideline, which has been published for consultation, follows the abolition of the Liverpool Care Pathway, a protocol for looking after people at the end of their life. This was phased out last year after a government-commissioned review found serious failings in how the pathway was being implemented. The NICE guideline begins to provide some guidance around clinical care in the last days of life in its place.

The draft guideline, which NICE has published for consultation, makes a series of recommendations on issues such as clear communication, fluid intake and medication prescribing.

Claire Henry, Chief Executive of the National Council for Palliative Care welcomed the draft guidelines but stressed: “It is imperative that in order to provide high standards of individualised care and support at the end of life, health and care staff are provided with ongoing training as end of life care is everybody’s business and there is only one chance to get it right.”

The consultation for the draft NICE guideline will remain open until Wednesday 9 September 2015. Comments will then be reviewed before the final guideline is published for NHS use.

NICE is also currently developing best practice guidelines for the NHS on end of life care for infants, children and young people, and guidance on how to deliver services to improve supportive and palliative care for adults. These are expected to publish in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

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