Fresh eyes on end of life care

“Caring for people who are dying is an everyday occurrence in acute hospitals” says this report from Hospice UK. “With around 46% of all deaths in England occurring in hospital, it is important that hospitals provide good quality, compassionate care.”

The report describes a way of exploring the patient, family and carers’ experiences by walking through a potential journey – from the hospital car park, through the Emergency Department (ED), an acute assessment ward, a general ward, mortuary and bereavement services.

The Fresh Eyes team members consider their first impressions of the ward or service from the perspective of a service user, recording how it appears, looks, sounds and smells. They talk and listen to staff – trying to understand usual practice (for example how a deceased person travels from the ward to the mortuary). They also wander through public areas such as restaurant facilities, chapels, faith and spiritual spaces using available signage to self-navigate.

The method includes both objective and subjective perspectives, with feedback indicating where there were differences in views. Differences of opinion can be helpful in indicating areas which may need further attention.

Photographs are taken to help reveal unloved, often simple to fix areas — for example, dirty windows, clutter, out of date/unconsidered notice boards and poor signage. Generally, staff knew the issues, and the visit helped to raise the profile for necessary change. Many hospital trusts said it was relatively easy to fund improvements to mortuary visiting areas and bereavement suites through charitable sources.

This is an excellent report – clearly written and with plentiful photos to illustrate the kinds of “unloved” areas that busy staff perhaps stop noticing, but which might add to the distress of people at a sensitive and vulnerable time. A concluding “key actions” section offers helpful tips for improvement.

Download report

The Patient Experience Library – January 2020 


Healthwatch Bury End of Life Experience