The Academic Health Science Network (AHSN Network) and Health Education England have published a report focusing on how patients and families are supported around the time of death, and examples of good practice from healthcare organisations across England.

Learning from staff reflections: supporting people at end of life is the result of a project commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) which was delivered by the AHSN Network.

The project took a novel approach by employing two Patient Safety Fellows to gather evidence and learning. They engaged with over 200 staff from over 40 healthcare organisations to understand what was working well, and where there were gaps in bereavement support.

Cheryl Crocker, AHSN Network Patient Safety Director, said:

‘We were encouraged to see a number of positive examples across the country. The review gives some really good insight into what makes it easier, and what makes it harder, for staff to support people and their families at the time of death, and to better understand clinician’s experience of this.’

The report was welcomed by Professor Bee Wee, National Clinical Director for Palliative and End of Life Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement. She added:

‘The recommendations from this AHSN/HEE report shed further light on some actions that could help. Communication is a process between two or more human beings. It is not a one-off ‘deliverable’ to be counted or ticked off a list. Psychological safety to enable honest conversations must be something all parties experience.

You can read more from Professor Bee Wee on why open and honest communication is essential for patient safety in this blog <link to BLOG NUMBER B12>.

Many clinical specialties were represented during the project, including staff from acute, community, mental health, hospices, care homes and ambulance trusts. Non-clinical staff including chaplains, charities, and a bereaved family were also involved.

The report considers four clear themes which emerged:

  • Communication
  • Cross-system learning and working
  • Culture
  • Staff wellbeing

Download the full report and an accessible version.

Find more information about the AHSN Network’s patient safety work.

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