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Many nurses lack basic training in palliative and end of life care

Nurses and other frontline health care staff often lack training in delivering basic palliative and end of life care, according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO).

Only 18% of nurses the NAO surveyed had received any pre-registration training in palliative or end of life care. Additionally, only 15% of nurses had received pre-registration training in communicating with patients approaching the end of their life.

The NAO report also revealed that there was a lack of formal training for staff working in care homes. While 74% of care homes in the survey said they provided specific end of life care training, less than half said it was compulsory.

Palliative investment falls short

Responding to the report, RCN nursing adviser Sue Thomas said: ‘Caring for people during the last stage of their life requires specialist skills yet our own research shows that there is a woeful lack of investment in this area for nurses and other healthcare staff, both pre- and post-registration.’

The government published its long-awaited end of life care strategy in July this year, which placed emphasis on improving outreach services so more patients could receive palliative care at home. The government has pledged to back the strategy with £286m over three years.

David Praill, chief executive of Help the Hospices, said: ‘It is vital that the extra funding announced by the government to support the new national strategy is used to address the gaps identified in the NAO report.’


Readers' comments (2)

  • I am not surprised. I have been working in the Intensive care for the past 10 years and still we have no a proper protocol to care for dying. Although, we have now Liverpool Care Pathway to assist with this process, there still be a dilemma whether to follow or not. It is all due to training issues.
    Now, it is agreed that every staff will have a training on this topic and yearly updates and I hope, this will change the situation soon.

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  • Whilst I completely agree that robust communication training is a must for all healthcare professionals - I do struggle with this concept that most nurses are apparently not equipped to care for people at the end of their lives. I have worked in the field of palliative care for nearly 17 years now - the last 9 as a CNS in Specialist Palliative Care and would suggest that the vast majority of the work with patients at this time - is good basic nursing care - a combination of providing phsyical care needs, being alongside the patient and family in their journey, listening to them and communicating with our colleagues - all patients need this level of care - whether they are dying or not - I can't believe that we are not training nurses to faciliate this care - and if we are not, then I would suggest the very basics are missing in the first place?

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