My Lords, as we announced today, the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, has been appointed to oversee the review of the Liverpool care pathway and is currently determining its procedures. The review will examine how the Liverpool care pathway is used in practice, and will look in particular at the experience of the Liverpool care pathway by patients, families and health professionals, as well as considering the role of financial incentives in its use. It will report by the summer.
My Lords, there will be very much satisfaction at the appointment of the noble Baroness concerned as chairman. Does my noble friend agree that this inquiry was set up following the receipt of more than 1,000 complaints from relatives of patients who had been put on the Liverpool care pathway, and that the Government are not ignoring their complaints, as those about Stafford were avoided some time ago? Is it acceptable that, out of 130,000 people who die yearly on the pathway-everyone who is put on it-only half are told that they are being put on it and neither they nor their relatives are allowed to know or complain that that is the case?
My noble friend the Minister is very widely respected for his fairness. Will he now consider attending a meeting sponsored by five Peers and a Bishop and addressed by two professors, two consultants and patients' representative, to hear the case against what is going on?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her endorsement of the appointment of the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, whom the whole House greatly respects. She is right that after seeing recent criticisms in the media and having received a great many letters in the department, the Minister of State for Care and Support, my honourable friend Norman Lamb, held a meeting at the end of November with patients, families and professionals, both supporters and opponents of the Liverpool care pathway. At that meeting, he announced his decision that there would be an independent chair to oversee a review of the experience of the pathway. However, it is important to emphasise that the pathway itself has not been called into question but, rather, how it is being used. My noble friend is right to draw attention to the concerns around the lack of engagement with patients and their families, which is often a feature of the complaints received.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that the principles of the Liverpool care pathway, when precisely defined and carefully applied at the right time and in the right circumstances, make an invaluable contribution to the care and passing of individuals with terminal illness? In light of the circumstances referred to by the noble Baroness, does he further accept that the unfortunate recent publicity has been the result of circumstances in which those principles have been misinterpreted and misapplied?
Yes, my Lords. The LCP, if I may use the abbreviation, is internationally recognised good practice as a framework for managing care for people in their last few days or hours of life. It was created as a way of bringing hospice-style care into hospitals and helping staff who may not be palliative care specialists to provide appropriate care to allow people to die in comfort and with dignity. However, we have consistently made clear in guidance for implementation that the pathway cannot replace clinical judgment and it should not be treated as a simple tick-box exercise. I am afraid that, from the complaints that have been received, that sometimes appears to be what has happened.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the appointment of the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger; I am sure that we all have confidence in her as chair of this review. Can my noble friend confirm that the terms of reference will specifically make sure that a direct comparison is made between what is appropriate in terms of the expertise and continuity to be found in the hospice movement and the rapid changes of staffing, including bank staff used in general wards of general hospitals?
I am grateful to my noble friend for drawing attention to a very important point. It has always been emphasised in connection with the LCP that to ensure that it is used properly it is important that staff receive appropriate training and support, and that relevant education and training programmes are always in place. In view of the degree of staff turnover to which my noble friend refers, I am confident that the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, will have that fact in her sights.
My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that if there is to be full confidence in what is undoubtedly a useful clinical tool that has helped many thousands of people to experience better care in the last hours and days of their life, non-clinical priorities in the use of the pathway, especially financial priorities, must be eradicated, and every patient should be treated solely according to their needs? Does he further agree that it would be far better to link CQUIN payments to staff training in the use of the pathway, rather than the numbers of patients being placed upon it?
My Lords, once again, I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, will wish to look at that very issue. The CQUIN payment framework that the right reverend Prelate mentioned was designed to incentivise good practice, and the LCP is considered internationally to be best practice. In one sense, it is therefore logical that the two should be combined. It is equally important for me to emphasise that the Department of Health has not attached any set financial targets to the LCP; on the other hand, some commissioners in the NHS have introduced local incentives. The way in which those incentives have been applied should be the subject of close attention.
My Lords, the Liverpool care pathway is widely used, but some care providers choose to use a slightly different pathway. Will my noble friend confirm that all similar pathways will be included in the inquiry led by the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger?
I will be happy to speak to the noble Baroness about that. I was not aware that she had that in mind. I do not think that there would be an objection on anyone's part if she did, but it will really depend on the extent to which there is widespread concern about the use of those other pathways.