NEAS helps pioneer way of giving terminally ill patients more choice before dying

New initiative first in UK

The North East is pioneering an approach to make sure people are cared for according to their wishes before their death.

The Deciding Right programme is being rolled out across all NHS organisations in the North East, including NEAS.

Developed by NHS professionals, Deciding Right creates one standard  process to help people make shared healthcare decisions ahead of their death.  It will help patients of all ages who do not have capacity to make their own choices, or who may lose capacity for making choices in the future.   

Crucially, for the very first time, Deciding Right will provide common regional documentation which will be easily recognisable by all health and social care professionals. It wil also have the legal authority to ensure patients' wishes are followed right at the very end of life.

Dr Claud Regnard, consultant in palliative care at St Oswald's Hospice and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has developed Deciding Right in the North East. 

Dr Regnard said: "Deciding Right is about putting patients, their families and carers at the very heart of shared decisions about their future care, making sure they understand the choices available and providing dignity in death by making sure their wishes are followed.

"Often, people may have made decisions about their future care but not written them down formally or told family members.  They may have actually made an advance care plan, but not shared it with all the relevant agencies and people.

"Equally, because different organisations have their own policies and procedures in place, patients' choices may not recognised from one care setting to another and can sometimes be disregarded by professionals in the heat of dealing with immediate life and death situations."

To overcome these common issues, Deciding Right sets out clear principles for all healthcare organisations and professionals in the north east to follow, focusing decisions on individual patient needs and wishes, rather than organisational policies and procedures.

Dr Elizabeth Kendrick, chair of the 'end of life' clinical innovation team at NHS North East and a member of the 'Commission on Dignity in Care for Older People', said: "Making sure that individuals' wishes are followed right at the very end of life is central to dignified care and through Deciding Right we hope to make this a reality for North East people, whether they wish to die at home, in a hospice or indeed a hospital setting.

"Today's launch marks a very important step in improving end of life care across the north east and is the result of many years of collaborative work.  We are proud to be launching Deciding Right at the Palliative Care Congress and in front of an international audience of professionals."

Deciding Right follows the UK's first ever charter to talk about death and dying, 'A Good Death', which was launched in the North East in October 2009 and put the region on the map nationally for its innovative work on end of life care.

For more information contact: liz.davies@northeast.nhs.uk

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