Legal expert slams palliative care failings

A Lancashire solicitor is emphasising the importance of Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPAs) in light of a report which has exposed a number of serious failings in palliative care.

The Dying Without Dignity report published by the parliamentary and health ombudsman on May 20 revealed there have been 265 complaints about end-of-life care in the past four years. The report said there are too many instances of poor symptom control, inadequate out-of-hours services and lack of communication.

A spokesman from the Department of Health said improving end-of-life care is a priority for the NHS.

Kathryn Harwood, head of the Wills & Estate Planning team at Napthens, says the failings serve as a stark reminder of the importance of putting legal documents, such as an LPA, in place to protect family members and loved ones when they most need it.

An LPA is a document which gives legal authority to a chosen person, so that they are allowed to make decisions on an individual’s behalf if they become incapable of doing so.

There are two types of LPA, one relating to health and welfare and the other property and financial affairs.

Kathryn said: “Failings where end-of-life care is concerned is becoming a worrying trend. A number of tragic incidents have been exposed in which vulnerable people have not received the dignity they deserved during their final days. “One way of safeguarding loved ones is to put an LPA in place. If you don’t, and the worst happens, it could lead to a potentially distressing situation for family members and loved ones, with the risk of complicated legal issues. A lot of people think about Wills, but don’t consider LPAs at the same time.”