A review of the Liverpool Care Pathway will be chaired by crossbench peer Baroness Julia Neuberger, care and support minister Norman Lamb has announced.
The independent panel, led by Baroness Neuberger, was announced in November.
It will examine the use of the end-of-life regime, which has faced criticism in the national media regarding the withholding of food and drink from terminally ill patients in hospitals and care homes.
Before reporting to ministers and the NHS Commissioning Board this summer, the panel will hear evidence from patients, families and healthcare professionals.
Discussing the appointment, Mr Lamb said that Baroness Neuberger would bring “unique knowledge and experience” to the job.
Baroness Neuberger, a senior rabbi at the West London Synagogue and former chief executive of the King’s Fund, said: “How we care for people at the end of their lives is a reflection of our society’s values and civilisation.
“At its best, Britain leads the world in end-of-life care, but it is not always perfect, and we need to work hard to get it right for everyone, providing the personal care individuals and their families both want and need.”
Amid reports suggesting that doctors are establishing “death lists” of patients and hospitals could be misusing the pathway to cut costs and save on bed space, the Liverpool Care Pathway has recently come under intense scrutiny.
However, healthcare professionals say that the pathway – which recommends in some circumstances that treatment, food and water be withdraw from sedated patients in their final days – has “transformed” end-of-life care.
They argue that when used correctly it can offer peaceful, pain-free deaths.
Imelda Redmond, director of policy and public affairs at Marie Curie, welcomed the appointment of Baroness Neuberger.
“The Liverpool Care Pathway has enabled thousands of people to experience dignified care in the last hours and days of life. It was developed to spread the hospice model of end of life care into hospitals and other healthcare settings.
But she added: “We know from the stories in the media, that not everyone is getting the high quality end of life care they need and many are being badly let down.
“We look forward to working closely with Baroness Neuberger and the review panel.”
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Baroness Julia Nueberger is a welcome appointment as independent chair who will bring a wealth of experience – gained from many areas of care – to the role.
“We feel that under her guidance, this inquiry is well placed to make important and impartial recommendations.”
He added: “We will work closely with Baroness Neuberger and the other organisations involved in supporting the inquiry and what it may find.”
Claire Henry, director of the National End of Life Care Programme, said: “This important step forward will help ensure that we thoroughly learn from people’s experiences, make informed recommendations and implement any improvements as quickly as possible.
“It is vital that the review is both robust and impartial. Baroness Neuberger, with her extensive experience and influential position, is well placed ensure that it is both of these things.
Eve Richardson, chief executive of the National Council for Palliative Care and the Dying Matters Coalition, said also welcomed the announcement.
She said: “There is a real need to ensure everyone receives excellent care at the end of life and to take people’s fear away from dying and from the care they may receive in their final days, including through far more open communication about end-of-life issues.
“This requires meaningful dialogue between bereaved people and health professionals to better understand people’s fears and concerns.”
The review will look at:
- the experience and opinions of patients and families
- the experience and opinions of health professionals
- hospital complaints
- local payments made to hospitals in respect of the LCP
- the literature about benefits and limitations of the Liverpool Care Pathway