Compassion needs to be tempered with honesty.

We need more compassionate care of the dying and elderly for whom there is no curative treatment.  If we are to improve patients’ experience and quality of life in the last few months, as well as saving money, we will need more trained primary care people explaining what is going to happen when the time arrives. Compassion needs to be tempered with honesty, and this needs to come from a doctor you know. Unfortunately there are fewer rather than more, of these individuals, and less and less time to discuss choices with patients. A good professional handover to adequate numbers of staff with good language and cultural awareness would negate this “need”, but whilst standards fall it is for the greater good. More patients die in Hospital than at home, and their desire is the other way round. This good news initiative needs integration into Primary Care…

Kent and Canterbury begins “compassion” symbol.

The Pilgrims Hospice logo which is being used for compassion signs on hospital wards

Chris Smyth reports 19th Feb 2018: “compassion” symbols alert hospital staff to dying patients.

Dying hospital patients will be marked with “compassion” symbols to encourage staff and visitors to be more respectful.

Hospitals in Kent have begun placing the symbol on bedside curtains or on doors next to people expected to die within days.

The project, thought to be a first in the NHS, is in use in 50 wards after managers found that it went down well with grieving families by encouraging a more dignified atmosphere on wards.

Annie Hogben of Pilgrims Hospices, which runs the project with East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “How a loved one dies can have a profound and long-lasting impact on those who are left behind. Therefore it’s essential that staff and visitors are sensitive to the needs of the person who is dying, and their loved ones at all times.”

The hospital insists that symbols are only displayed with the consent of patients and relatives, and are not designed to single them out or chastise rowdy visitor.

Dying hospital patients will be marked with “compassion” symbols to encourage staff and visitors to be more respectful.

Hospitals in Kent have begun placing the symbol on bedside curtains or on doors next to people expected to die within days.

The project, thought to be a first in the NHS, is in use in 50 wards after managers found that it went down well with grieving families by encouraging a more dignified atmosphere on wards.

Annie Hogben of Pilgrims Hospices, which runs the project with East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “How a loved one dies can have a profound and long-lasting impact on those who are left behind. Therefore it’s essential that staff and visitors are sensitive to the needs of the person who is dying, and their loved ones at all times.”

The hospital insists that symbols are only displayed with the consent of patients and relatives, and are not designed to single them out or chastise rowdy visitors.

“It would never be done without consultation and is really about raising awareness among other visitors to the ward that someone is receiving end-of-life care and to encourage an atmosphere of quiet dignity and respect in that area,” Steve James, a spokesman, said.

Almost 300,000 people die in hospital every year and the NHS has been criticised for not taking end-of-life care seriously enough. A review by the Royal College of Physicians two years ago found that thousands were dying thirsty and in pain because doctors and nurses were terrified of talking about death.

Bill Noble, medical director of the charity Marie Curie, said that compassion was an “essential part of palliative care”, but urged the hospitals to learn the lessons of the well-intentioned Liverpool Care Pathway, which was scrapped after patients were left thirsty and suffering because of misuse of the end-of-life protocol.

“This [compassion symbols] appears to be excellent idea but like all interventions of this nature it requires evaluation. We have learned there are unintended consequences of labelling people as requiring end-of-life care,” Dr Noble said.

The logo, featuring a stylised pair of hands cupping a person’s face, is also used on bags containing property of patients who have died that is awaiting collection by relatives.

Andrea Reid, from Folkestone, said that the sign made a big difference to her aunt’s final days. “The nursing staff all hesitated at the door, explained why they needed to come in and gave us time to either leave the room or move out of the way with a calm, unhurried air,” she said.

“Our hospital staff are often working in a pressured and high-speed environment but the small and unassuming compassion symbol is just enough to trigger a pause and a moment’s consideration for those dealing with the worst news possible.”

Sue Cook, a palliative care nurse and the trust’s end-of-life clinical lead, said: “Those of us who work in the NHS have a duty to ensure that our patients are cared for with dignity, respect and compassion until they die. That’s why the Compassion Project and its symbol is so important to us and all who help those approaching the end of their lives.”

 

This entry was posted in Good News, Professionals, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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