Sue Ryder on why communication is crucial, one year after the Francis report

Categories: Care.

The Francis report has begun the process of redefining compassion at the heart of the NHS. It has also drawn a line in the sand to ensure the failings of care revealed at Mid Staffs NHS Trust and hospitals across the country never happen again.

We were encouraged to see the commitment the government pledged in November 2013 to embedding principles of delivering compassionate care laid out in the report. 

Parallels with LCP review

As an end of life care provider, as well as long term neurological care, we have seen parallels between the recommendations laid out in the Francis Report with those in Baroness Neuberger’s independent review of the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) in July 2013. Both reports included examples of care and communication with families that fell well below expected standards, leaving families with the legacy to contend with that their loved ones suffered untimely or ill-planned deaths. 

Communication is a crucial component of providing quality care

A crucial component of providing quality and compassionate care is the way healthcare professionals communicate with patients and their families and involve them in the decision-making process. This was highlighted in both reports and echoes the findings from our own research which revealed that there is a lottery regarding the timing and quality of conversations that GPs and other professionals have with individuals who are at the end of their life.

End of life care training is essential

A lack of communication and clarity about what is happening to someone who is being cared for leads to lack of trust and prevents people from expressing a preference about what they want. We believe that the Secretary of State must include end of life care training in Health Education England’s workforce mandate, with a focus on better communication skills. This should also be a focus for Local Education Training Boards with training available for all care professionals. As part of our ‘dying isn’t working’ research we have been calling for end of life care training to be more widespread; inclusion of this within the Neuberger review’s recommendations was a significant step forward. We also believe that such training which would focus on compassion and a focus on the individual would have prevented some of the appalling care revealed by the Francis report.

Rebuilding trust and a focus on person-centred care

Better communication together with changes being implemented in response to the Francis report – including a focus on quality and safety, a strong nursing voice and clinical leadership, transparency in the management of complaints, and development of a culture where there is a clear focus on the individual and a personalised approach to care – will support rebuild trust in the NHS and focus all providers of health and social care to continually review their own culture of care and patient experience.

Find out more about the work of Sue Ryder by visiting the website. 

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