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End of life care communication skills lacking among nurses

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Nurses do not have the skills needed to talk to patients about their end of life care, research has found.

The research, by the NHS national end of life care programme, discovered that while most health and social care staff have some involvement in end of life care, the majority have not received communications skills training beyond a very basic level.

NEoLCP project manager Katie Lindsey said: “Most healthcare professionals are involved in caring for someone nearing the end of life to some degree. Therefore, all staff need to have some level of confidence and competence to support families and patients.”

The research came as a separate pilot found nurses were good at talking to patients about elective treatments. However, the NEoLCP analysis showed there was a need for advanced communication training for nurses involved in the care of end of life patients other than those with cancer - such as those with heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Ms Lindsey said: “Training material and courses that are currently offered to people working in oncology could be adapted to those working in other areas - including the care of older people as well as specific life limiting conditions such as COPD.”

The research was carried out at 12 health providers, including the hospice charity Leicestershire and Rutland Organisation for the Relief of Suffering.

Hospice head of education Sharon de Caestecker said that communication skills were often seen as an “add on”, rather than a core skill requiring training.

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