Communication key to end of life care - report

Friday 27 June 2014 22.43
13% of complaints examined by the Ombudsman in 2013 related to the HSE
13% of complaints examined by the Ombudsman in 2013 related to the HSE

Communication between healthcare staff and patients is key to improving end of life care in Irish hospitals, according to the latest Ombudsman's report.

It found that poor communication is a feature of almost every complaint sent to the Ombudsman's office and that often the manner in which information is given to families of patients distorts its true meaning.

Last year, 13% of complaints examined by the Ombudsman's office related to the Health Service Executive.

The report notes that healthcare professionals work in a busy and stressful environment and that overburdened staff feature regularly in complaints.

It said: "Sometimes the defence offered by staff of being very busy and under pressure does not justify the poor and insensitive service.

"Sometimes management has no choice but to accept the fact that services are unviable unless further investment is provided."

The report is based on a review of complaints made to the Ombudsman's office.

Speaking at the publication of the report, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said people come to him "not for compensation or vindication but to ensure that what happened to them never happens again".

One of the cases featured in the report relates to the experience of a woman whose husband was receiving treatment for lung cancer.

After his death, she said she had been told that her husband's cancer was "gone" following chemotherapy.

The consultant stated that while he would have said that he was pleased with the patient's response to the treatment, it would never have been his practice to say that a specific cancer was gone.

The report suggests that cases like this highlights the need for healthcare staff to check with patients and staff that they understand the information being conveyed.