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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 00:35 GMT 01:35 UK
Doctors 'fail dying patients'
Nurses want more support to care for dying patients
Nurses feel doctors may sometimes fail to give proper care to dying patients, a survey suggests.

The study by Nursing Times magazine and the Nuffield Trust also found nurses reporting problems getting help from doctors.

Some nurses believe that doctors feel they have failed when a patient is dying and this may make them reluctant to provide the care the patient needs.

A third thought the doctors they worked with were not good at pain management for patients and one in four said they felt unable to provide good nursing care in the place where they work.

Death seems to represent failure for many doctors

Dr Julia Addington-Hall
But the BMA said doctors and nurses had to work as an integrated team to provide high standard care.

Dr Julia Addington-Hall analysed the survey results for the Nuffield Trust. She said nurses needed doctors to help treat and prescribe pain relief - particularly at night.

She said: "Death seems to represent failure for many doctors. They often withdraw from dying patients and leave them to nurses. Quality of care is the most important aspect of dying. No one should die in pain."

And she added: "A picture emerges of nurses feeling comfortable dealing with dying patients and their families, confident that they know how to make dying patients comfortable ... but of them struggling to do this within the current NHS."

Fifteen-hundred people die every day in England and Wales, and 60,000 a year die in Scotland. Over half die in hospital.


The survey of 300 nurses showed one in 10 nurses said better pain control is the one thing that would improve the care of the dying.

Mark Radcliffe, features editor of Nursing Times told BBC News Online: "An element of nursing is that it's holistic. They see offering care as being part of the job, and comforting people who are dying."

The Nuffield Trust is publishing its report 'Care of the Dying', a report of a conference held last year.

John Wyn Owen, secretary of the trust, called for an audit of palliative care to ensure everyone received a high standard of care.

National standards

He said many currently received inadequate care and called for the government to set out national standards for training and provision of palliative care.

"In every hospital and healthcare setting there should be clear lines of responsibility for ensuring that basic equipment and drugs needed to care for dying patients are available," he said.

"And staff should be given enough time to perform their roles in listening to and helping patients."

The chairman of the BMA Council Dr Ian Bogle said: "At its best, hospice care and palliative care both in hospitals and at home can be excellent.

"Doctors and nurses work as an integrated team, working together to deliver the best possible support to the dying patient.

"Those are the standards that we should be aiming for across the NHS, for every patient."

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See also:

20 May 01 | Health
Nursing in need of care
28 Nov 00 | Euthanasia
Alternatives at death's door
08 Mar 00 | Health
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