Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Dying in two acute hospitals: would usual care meet Australian national clinical standards?

Katherine Clark A B F , Naomi Byfieldt A , Malcolm Green A , Peter Saul D , Jill Lack D and Jane L. Philips E

A Department of Palliative Care, Calvary Mater Newcastle, Edith Street, Waratah, NSW 2298, Australia.

B School of Medicine and Public Health, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.

C Clinical Excellence Commission, NSW Department of Health, 227 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia.

D Cancer Decorate, The Lodge, John Hunter Hospital Campus, Locked Bag 1, HRMC, NSW 2310, Australia.

E The University of Notre Dame Australia, 170 Darlinghurst Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email: katherine.clark@calvarymater.org.au

Australian Health Review 38(2) 223-229 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH13174
Submitted: 17 September 2013  Accepted: 27 November 2013   Published: 4 March 2014

Abstract

The Australian Commission for Quality and Safety in Health Care (ACQSHC) has articulated 10 clinical standards with the aim of improving the consistency of quality healthcare delivery. Currently, the majority of Australians die in acute hospitals. But despite this, no agreed standard of care exists to define the minimum standard of care that people should accept in the final hours to days of life. As a result, there is limited capacity to conduct audits that focus on the gap between current care and recommended care. There is, however, accumulating evidence in the end of life literature to define which aspects of care are likely to be considered most important to those people facing imminent death. These themes offer standards against which to conduct audits. This is very apt given the national recommendation that healthcare should be delivered in the context of considering people’s wishes while always treating people with dignity and respect.

This work describes a gap analysis undertaken to explore if issues defined as important by people facing imminent death would have been addressed by usual care of the dying in general hospital wards. The specific issues examined included the documentation that was available to define that this person was likely to die soon and how engaged the person dying seemed to be in discussions, how the person was monitored to ensure distressing symptoms were addressed when necessary and what investigations were considered necessary after the time the person was identified as dying.

Although retrospective, the review highlights that usual care would not meet people’s wishes, suggesting that care of the dying would not meet the ACQSHC standard entitled ‘Partnering with consumers’. An alternative model is needed.

What is known about the topic? The majority of Australians die in acute hospitals. Despite this, there is no agreed Australian evidence-based, clinical standard to define best practice as to what constitutes quality care for these people.

What does this paper add? This paper explores whether particular specific patient-centred needs defined in the end of life literature would have been meet by usual care delivered to people dying in general medical and surgical wards.

What are the implications for practitioners? Although many Australians would prefer a home death, the majority of deaths still occur in hospital. In this context, this work articulates that there is a need to consider the wishes and needs of patients when considering care at the end of life in line with Australian standards. However, this is only one aspect of care and further work is needed to consider other aspects of care including the quality of prescribing for dying people.

Additional keywords: death, patient-centered care.


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