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Nurses concerned about provision of palliative care

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Only 10.5 per cent of nurses believe they are able to provide the right care at the end of a patient's life, a survey by the RCN has found.

The survey found that 58.5 per cent of respondents found it difficult to fulfill the wishes of patients in the last six months of their life. Reasons given for this included a lack of time, resources, and in some cases, training. More than half of the nurses surveyed said they provided palliative care at least once a week, but a quarter said that they had received no specialist training.

The survey also discovered that community nursing was struggling to provide adequate palliative care to patients, with only 36 per cent of community nurses saying that their team has the resources to deliver round-the-clock care to patients who have chosen to die at home. It also showed that 69.4 per cent of nurses in the community had seen terminal patients being taken from their home to hospital against their wishes. The reason for this was cited as a lack of resources to care for the patients in their own homes.

Laura Bennett, policy and public affairs manager at the National Council for Palliative Care, said: 'It is disappointing that nurses are being denied the chance to provide the best care possible for patients at the end of their life. We need a new model of out-of-hospital care, which allows patients to die in the comfort of their own home. Nurses have only one chance to provide the best palliative care.'

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the RCN said: 'This survey has touched a nerve amongst nursing staff. Hundreds have told us about the honour and privilege of caring for people at the end of their lives. However, many are also profoundly troubled by their experiences of trying to deliver care for the dying, against a backdrop of staff shortages, lack of resources, inadequate training, cost pressures and rising demand. Sensitive nursing can make an enormous difference to the experience of a dying person and a 'good death' with expert care can also make the bereavement process much easier for the loved ones they leave behind.'

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