Putting patient wishes first at the end of life

Dr Kathryn Hall

Dr Kathryn Hall

Author: Kathryn Common, Communications Manager, Connected Health Cities

Connected Health Cities North East and North Cumbria is funding a test project in North Tyneside which aims to improve information sharing across different healthcare organisations to support the wishes of patients receiving palliative care.

The idea is to improve electronic information sharing so that patients who have registered on the Palliative Care Register who live in North Tyneside have their treatment wishes respected. There are around 200,000 people living in North Tyneside, a metropolitan borough which sits between Newcastle upon Tyne and the coast. There are approximately 29 GP practices in the area and a range of emergency and out of hours providers. There are hospital services in North Tyneside, but patients can often be treated in Northumberland or Newcastle.

Services such as ambulance, out of hours and emergency departments in North Tyneside are coming together to put the technology into place and link IT systems together.

Kathryn Hall, GP lead for the project explains: “The project is about patient care, first and foremost. As a GP, I see many situations where I have spoken with patients and their families and recorded the wishes of the patient on the Palliative Care Register.

“What can happen sometimes, if say that patient is in a care home and suddenly deteriorates, the support team looking after them may not have access to that patient’s clinical record. They will call emergency services who then can take the patient to the local hospital. Once we have implemented this new system, the 999-call handler, the paramedic or the hospital doctors would all be able to check whether that patient has recorded their wishes on the Palliative Care Register. It may be the case that receiving treatment in a hospital is not the most appropriate course of action.”

The information on the system is accurate and captured in real time and supports patients who have individual care plans for their health and social care needs.

If all services treating a patient are aware of their preferences, it means that their care can be tailored accordingly.

Hannah Gunn, Palliative Care Consultant at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust explains: “I spend a lot of my time having conversations with patients, their families or carers about how they want to be treated at the end of their life. This project is a really positive step as I know it will provide other healthcare professionals with the confidence to provide the patient with the care they want.”

Northumbria University is carrying out an evaluation of the project once it is finished. The project is currently in the procurement stage, but the team is hopeful they can begin to implement their vision in the next few months.

Mark Walsh, Operations Director for Connected Health Cities North East and North Cumbria concludes: “We’re really excited about the project. We have seen from the Great North Care Record that when IT systems interoperate well and are usable, and clinicians are supportive of their use, we can improve care for patients. Our ambition is that we prove the concept of the project in North Tyneside so we can share the learning and outcomes and replicate the system across the whole of the North East and North Cumbria.”

Further information about the project is available in a video on the Connected Health Cities North East and North Cumbria website.

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