Dying patients and their relatives to benefit from Department of Health investment in hospital environments

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The physical environment in which the NHS cares for thousands of dying patients is to be transformed as a result of a new £1 million programme funded by the Department of Health, led by the King’s Fund.

Nurse-led teams in 19 NHS trusts and one prison will work to improve facilities to care for patients at the end of life, the bereaved and the frontline staff who care for them. The wide range of projects will include new palliative care beds, improvements to facilties for families and visitors, dedicated bereavement suites and refurbished mortuary viewing facilties.

This anouncement comes ahead of the government’s End of Life Care Strategy to be launched later this year which will give people greater choice and improved care at the end of their life.

This is the latest phase of the King’s Fund’s Enhancing the Healing Environment programme and follows a pilot scheme in eight sites on end-of-life care that was completed earlier this year.

Launching the new projects, Care Services Minister Ivan Lewis said:

'I am pleased to announce the new recipients of this funding for this very important programme. We know that most deaths (58 per cent) occur in NHS hospitals, which is why it is important that we make these environments as pleasant as possible for patients and their families.

'How we care for people who are dying is an indicator of how we care for all sick and vulnerable people. It is a measure of society as a whole and in particular it is a litmus test for health and social care services.

'The government is committed to improving care and people’s choices at the end of life, regardless of their condition or their location. We are taking this work forward through the development of a national End of Life Care Strategy for adults, which will be published in the summer.

'These projects will help to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect at the end of their lives and that pain and suffering among people approaching the end of life is kept to an absolute minimum.'

King's Fund Chief Executive Niall Dickson added

'We are still not doing enough for patients at the end of life. These patients and their families, like recovering patients, deserve dignity and a caring environment, but too often they are not experiencing this. This new programme is an important step towards better care for a much neglected group.

'We know that improving the environment in which people are cared for can make a huge difference to how they feel. We are confident that this scheme will not only improve facilities at 20 new sites across the country, but will also have a positive impact on the staff who take part and the patients who receive their care.'

Each project has to improve the physical environment in an area used by patients and relatives and must be run by a nurse-led, multidisciplinary team. An integral part of the project planning will be the involvement of patients and relatives. Each team will have an intitial budget of £40,000 to undertake their project and each team member will receive a place on a King's Fund programme to develop their leadership skills and give them the practical knowledge they will need to make their project a success.

The nurse-led teams will be aided by a new report, Improving Environments for Care at End of Life, published on 24 April by the King’s Fund, which both celebrates the success of the pilot programme and explores the impact that improving environments can have on those who receive care or who work in end-of-life care. The publication includes a literature review, the results of a concurrent action research programme, and the outcome of a key stakeholder workshop.

Find out more about our Enhancing the Healing Environments project

Notes to editors

  1. Improving Environments for Care at End of Life: Lessons from eight UK pilot sites is free to download from our website.

  2. The successful applicants whose projects will be taken forward are: East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust; Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust; Luton & Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundaton Trust; Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust; Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust; Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust; Shropshire County Primary Care Trust; South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust; South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust; Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust; Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust; Newham University Hospital NHS Trust; North Bristol NHS Trust; Portsmouth City PCT; Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust; Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; York Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; HMP Albany, Isle of Wight.

  3. There were three times as many applicants to this scheme as there were places. There is at least one project within each of the 10 strategic health authorities.

  4. The Enhancing the Healing Environmentscheme has had a dramatic impact on patients and professionals since the King’s Fund launched the programme in 2001. So far more than 150 NHS organisations including acute hospitals, mental health trusts, learning disability services and primary care trusts have transformed the environments in which they deliver care to patients. Further information about the Enhancing the Healing Environment scheme can be found on the King’s Fund’s Enhancing the Healing Environment project page, including information on evaluation and outcomes of the programme from 2003 and 2006.

  5. An independent evaluation of the scheme conducted by researchers at South Bank University in 2003 revealed significant long-term benefits from the programme, including: the potential to reduce aggressive behaviour by patients and relatives towards staff; improvements in staff recruitment and retention rates; faster recuperation rates for patients; reductions in vandalism. 

  6. For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund press office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.

  7. For further information from the Department of Health, please call the Department of Health’s news desk on 020 7210 5221.

  8. The King’s Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through funding. We are a major resource to people working in health and social care, offering leadership development programmes; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.