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Lord Howe attacks Liverpool Care Pathway reporting


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.”



Readers' comments (6)

  • Tiger Girl

    There is clearly a concerted DH defence of the LCP going on at present, in response to a campaign attacking it (notably by the Mail the DT and some doctors).

    There would be less problems, if clinicians openly talked to their patients, about these end-of-life issues (including DNACPR) in my view: not no problems, but many less problems !

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  • As an NHS employee, I have seen the LCP in use many times to greatly benefit the dying patient, providing comfort and diginity in their final days. It is not a blanket pathway as is being portrayed - patients ARE reassessed and if deemed to be improving clinically, can be withdrawn from the pathway and recommenced on active treatment.

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  • Florence

    The Daily Mail in particular has done some very negative reporting on the Liverpool Care Pathway. They allowed no room for the side of clinicians who are using it appropriatley.
    I absolutley agree with Tiger Girl though. Clinicians at all levels need to open the dialogue with Patients ( when its possible) and families about DNAR and end of life care more readily and openly.
    Its a communication issue in part.

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  • The daily mail should be banned for reporting anything.

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  • Who are the regulators? I contacted my mother's MP, the hospital trust Chief Executive, the health minister, my own MP, the Ombudsman, the local safeguarding team, numerous organisations linked to elderly care, AVMA and a Right To Life organisation to name but a few bodies. My mother was placed on a rogue version of the Liverpool Care Pathway after initially going to A&E with a minor injury. She did not have a terminal condition but had fallen from a raised bed in A&E, was admitted as a result, and then fell again a further three times on the ward injuring her head. She developed delirium which was left unresolved and not treated. It's a condition which if hypoactive, ticks most of the boxes for an end of life pathway but how many relatives would be able to make a challenge? I understand it's a condition often misdiagnosed and is common in a substantial percentage of the hospitalised elderly.

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  • what's a rogue version of the LCP, it's either the LCP or it's not.

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