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Nursing academics challenge critical end-of-life care report

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Nursing academics have challenged a critical report published by the National Audit Office into the standard of nurse training in end-of-life care.

The National Audit Office report, published last week, concluded that training in palliative and end-of-life care was inadequate and varied widely among nurses.

Only 18% of nurses surveyed by the National Audit Office 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.

But the National Audit Office findings, based on a survey of 181 nurses, do not reflect current nursing education, according to the Council of Deans of Health. Around 40% of the sample had qualified more than 25 years ago, with only around 5% having qualified in the last one to five years and around 10% in the last 6-10 years.

Paul Turner, executive officer of the council, said: 'This survey is not indicative of what is happening in pre-registration nursing education at the moment. All institutions include a significant part on end-of-life care in pre-registration training.'

The survey findings on post-registration training appeared to be better - with 54% of general nurses and 91% of specialist palliative nurses trained in the use of at least one of the main end-of-life care tools such as the Liverpool Care Pathway.

The focus now should be on ensuring that nurses who missed out on the current education programmes receive funding and access to update their skills in palliative nursing, added Mr Turner. The council would feed this back to the Department of Health when officially commenting on the NAO report, he said.

Frank Ursell, chief executive of the Registered Nursing Home Association, said increasing funding on training would widen opportunities for people to spend their last days at home rather than in hospital.

This is a central theme of the government's End of Life Care Strategy, published in July 2008, which is backed by£286m funding.

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