An independent review is expected to conclude that the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) should be phased out in England.
The LCP was developed at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital alongside the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute. The aim of the LCP was to create a model to be available nationwide which would allow patients to have dignified, peaceful and pain-free deaths. The method can involve the withdrawal of food, fluids and medication when death is imminent. It can also mean an end to invasive tests said to cause unnecessary suffering when a patient is so close to death.
However, the controversial end-of-life care plan has been heavily criticised by families who believe that their relatives were put on the pathway without their consent. Some relatives also claim that death has been hastened in patients whose death was not imminent. The NHS receives payouts for hitting targets relating to the use of the LCP but the Department of Health has vigorously denied that the pathway has been used for anything other than the right reasons.
While many health professionals argue that the LCP has transformed end-of-life care, others claim there are too many examples of poor implementation of the system and worrying standards in care which mean that the LCP should be replaced.
Following heavy criticism from patients’ families, the Department of Health in England set up an independent review to look into the use of the LCP. The review, chaired by crossbench peer Baroness Julie Neuberger, considered evidence from patients, families and health professionals. It is expected that the review will conclude that the LCP will need to be replaced and that it should therefore be phased out in England within the next six to twelve months. There has been no suggestion so far as to what will replace the LCP.
By Ruth Eardley