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Families fear loved ones' lives were shortened by painkillers

PUBLISHED: 09:19 23 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:06 23 May 2019

Families across the country want the deaths of their loved ones to be investigated Picture: Denise Bradley

Families across the country want the deaths of their loved ones to be investigated Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant

Families who believe the deaths of elderly relatives were hastened by painkillers they were given in hospital are set to meet in Norfolk.

Guidelines which came out four years ago said individual care plans should replace the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP).

Under the LCP, patients nearing the end of their lives were given high doses of opiate drugs, while food and fluids were withheld.

Some families believed the pathway shortened their loved ones' lives.

An independent review into end of life care said food and fluids should be given to patients who requested them, while opiates should only be given to those in pain.

But some believe their relatives were given drugs unnecessarily, against guidelines drawn up after the review by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Concerned relatives from across the country are meeting in King's Lynn on Friday, June 7.

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Organiser Denise Charlesworth-Smith has invited families to the Butterfly Hotel to discuss their experiences.

She believes one of her elderly relatives was over-sedated and not given food or water before he died.

Mrs Charlesworth-Smith wants police to investigate where there are doubts over care.

"I just want to help the families," she said. "It needs investigating, it needs sorting out."

Three weeks ago, Hampshire police said they were launching an investigation into more than 400 deaths at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital, near Portsmouth.

Mrs Charlesworth-Smith, who lives near Downham Market, was part of an independent review group chaired by Baroness Neuberger, which investigated families' experiences of the Liverpool Care Pathway.

It concluded: "Whether true or not, many families suspected that deaths had been hastened by the premature, or over-prescription of strong pain killing drugs or sedatives, and reported that these had sometimes been administered without discussion or consultation."

A spokesman for NICE said: "When exercising their judgement, professionals and practitioners are expected to take this guideline fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients or the people using their service."

The guidelines are not mandatory. Mrs Charlesworth-Smith said: "They're about as much use as a bit of toilet roll. They are what it it says on the tin. They are guidelines."

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