Nurse shortage causing ‘hidden crisis’ of people dying at home without sufficient support
A charity has warned of a “hidden crisis” of people dying at home without sufficient support, pain relief or dignity and a shortage of nurses to provide palliative care.
One in three nurses (30%) say staffing shortages are the main barrier to providing quality end-of-life care, according to a survey by Nursing Standard and end-of-life charity Marie Curie.
And more than half (52%) said they feel the standard of care has deteriorated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some 548 nursing staff across acute and community settings in the UK completed the survey in September.
They raised concerns about the increased number of people dying at home and insufficient numbers of community nurses to support these people and their families.
There have been more than 74,005 excess deaths in private homes in England and Wales since the start of the pandemic, according to PA news agency analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Just 12% of these were deaths involving coronavirus.
Excess deaths are the number of deaths above the average for the corresponding period in the non-pandemic years of 2015-19.
One nurse who responded to the survey said: “If more [people] are dying at home then there is a huge pressure on local district nursing teams which struggle with staffing as it is.”
Julie Pearce (pictured), chief nurse and executive director of quality and caring services at Marie Curie, said: “The pandemic has accelerated change across many care settings.
“More people are dying at home and staffing to support this shift isn’t there.
“The data shows a hidden crisis happening behind closed doors and people dying without access to pain relief or the dignity they deserve.
“As a charity, we are urging MPs to support calls for an amendment to the Health and Care Bill to create a legal duty to commission palliative care services in every part of England.”
The survey also suggests that healthcare professionals have grown in confidence over initiating conversations about end-of-life care needs with patients and families, which Ms Pearce called “promising”.
Flavia Munn, editor at Nursing Standard, said: “Nurses want to do their very best and support people who wish to die at home but there simply aren’t enough of them.
“The pandemic has highlighted many extraordinarily difficult decisions facing nurses over end-of-life care, choosing which patient to prioritise is one heart-breaking example.
“Being able to make a person comfortable in their final days and hours and reduce the burden on their loved ones is of paramount importance.
“Ministers must pay attention to the human impact of chronic nursing staff shortages on patients, families – and the profession itself.”
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Marie Curie.