Several patients in the NHS are put onto the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) each year in their last days and hours without informing their families, according to an audit that was led by the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute Liverpool in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians.
The Liverpool Care Pathway, developed at the Royal Liverpool Hospital in the 1990s allows medical staff to withdraw fluid and drugs in
the final days of life. It is recommended as a best practice model to follow in the last hours or days of life by national policy. However, the guidelines state that if a patient is in the last hours or days of life it should always be discussed with the patient where possible and appropriate, if not then families should be involved in the decision to put patients on this 'death pathway'.
Following the audit of over 130 NHS trusts it was revealed that doctors failed to have a conversation with the family in up to 2,500 cases. In one NHS trust it was found that less than half families were not informed of the use of this scheme and in a quarter of trusts, one in three families were not informed.
In some cases patients have been put on the pathway only to recover when their families intervened. It was a shock for several families when they found that their loved one was put on this death pathway without consultation.