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Bishop expresses shock at the state of end of life care in UK

Bishop John Sherrington (Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk)

An Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster has expressed his shock at the state of end-of-life care in this country following a report by the health ombudsman.

Following the release of the report today, which concluded that thousands of dying patients are being let down by poor end-of-life care provision, Bishop John Sherrington said: “As many people will have been, I was shocked by some of these stories in the health ombudsman’s report. In this country we have been pioneers in developing excellent practice in the palliative and pastoral care of those who are dying, and it is important we should read this report in context. Everyone deserves to have the highest quality of care as we are all equal in the face of illness.”

The bishop added that people needed to start facing the reality of death. He said: “As a society we also need to reflect more honestly and deeply on the reality of death, and help to promote the quality of professional care and pastoral support needed. We need to learn again the art of dying well which we find in our Christian heritage.”

The health ombudsman’s report, entitled ‘Dying without Dignity’, documented “tragic” cases where people’s suffering could have been avoided or lessened.

In one example of failures of care, a patient had suffered 14 painful attempts to have a drip reinserted during his final hours.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “These are appalling cases – everyone deserves good quality care at the end of their lives.

“The five priorities for end-of-life care we brought in emphasise that doctors and nurses must involve patients and their families in decisions about their care, regularly review their treatment and share patients’ choices to make sure their wishes are respected.

“NHS England is working on making these priorities a reality for everyone who needs end-of-life care.”