A health minister has hit out at “misreporting and misinformation” about the Liverpool Care Pathway for dying patients.
Earl Howe said there had not been a single complaint to the regulator about the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), which recommends that in some circumstances doctors withdraw treatment, food and water from sedated patients in their final days.
His comments came after care services minister Norman Lamb announced today that a new legal obligation in the NHS constitution would make “clear and explicit” the right of patients and their families to be informed over end-of-life treatment decisions.
At question time in the House of Lords, Tory Baroness Knight of Collingtree said: “Large number of people with personal experience of how the LCP is operating complained that their relatives were denied hydration in hospital and died in acute pain and discomfort with no knowledge whatsoever or agreement of having been put on this pathway.”
She asked Lord Howe: “Are you aware that if relatives step in in time and give their dear ones help and water patients have often survived? One rang me a few days ago and she is now going on a cruise.”
She said there should be a “truly independent” inquiry and not one carried out by “vested interests”.
Lord Howe told her: “There has been an enormous amount of misreporting and misinformation around the Liverpool Care Pathway, which has been endorsed publicly in a consensus document by 22 of the leading organisations and patient organisations in this area including Marie Curie.
“Some of those organisations are looking carefully at the reports you mentioned. It is noticeable that not a single complaint has reached the regulators in this area, which I suggest indicates there may be less substance to some of these stories than first meets the eye.”
He added there was “no room for complacency in a matter of this kind” and a number of organisations were looking into the system.
But he told peers: “We do not make policy decisions based on anecdote if the work in progress suggests a cause for concern we will respond on the basis of that evidence.”