More than 20 organisations have signed a statement seeking to rectify “misconceptions and often inaccurate information” about the Liverpool Care Pathway for the dying patient.
The group of charities and royal colleges said accusations that the pathway was a way of withholding treatment, including hydration and nutrition, risked detracting from the “substantial benefits” it could bring to patients.
For example, in June newspapers quoted a doctor as saying it had become an “assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway”, with pressure on hospital beds leading to older patients being put on it too early.
The group have signed a consensus statement to provide “clarity” about what the pathway “is – and what it is not”. Signatories include the Royal College of Nursing, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Macmillan Cancer Support, and the National Nurse Consultant Group (Palliative Care).
The statement says the pathway is a framework for good practice, which “does not replace clinical judgement”. It requires staff to ensure all decisions to continue or stop a treatment are taken in the “best interest of each patient”.
The pathway should not “hasten or delay death”, but ensure the right type of care is available in the last days or hours of life “when all of the possible reversible causes for their condition have been considered”, the statement adds.
RCN long-term conditions adviser Amanda Cheesley said: “We want to make it clear that it is not in any way about ending life but about supporting the delivery of the best possible end-of-life care.”