Best Care of the Dying Patient

Over 300 people attended a conference to look at the ‘Best Care of the Dying patient in light of the Neuberger Review of the Liverpool Care Pathway’ held at the Conference Centre at LACE.

Delegates came from across the Archdiocese and beyond to hear Speakers: Sister Margaret Atkins, who taught theology and is now based at Boarbank Hall in Cumbria, Dr Karen Groves, Medical Director of the Queenscourt Hospice in Southport and Dr Ged Corcoran, former Director of Woodlands Hospice, who is now attached to the Marie Curie Palliative Care institute in Liverpool.
Bishop Tom Williams, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese and Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Healthcare Reference Group, introduced the meeting saying that there is a need for greater knowledge of the pastoral care of the dying.  He said that Hospital Chaplains are part of a team dealing with life and death situations on a daily basis and stressed that they are there to care for the patient, for relatives and for staff.  He praised the work of Catholics in Healthcare calling them ‘saints’ in recognition of the work they do.

Sister Margaret Atkins spoke of the ‘way forward’ after the Liverpool Care Pathway review saying that we must look forward and not back.  She said that Catholics have every right to be both proud of and grateful to Catholics who work in palliative care since they have led the field in raising standards and in best practice.  She spoke on the three themes of ‘rules and growth’, ‘rules and judgement’ and ‘ expertise and motivation’, concluding by stressing the difference between knowledge and practical wisdom and charity.

Dr Karen Groves, Medical Director of Queenscourt Hospice in Southport, spoke on the theme of ‘Opening the Spiritual Gate: significant conversations with dying patients and their families’.  She emphasised the importance of the spiritual saying, ‘if we don’t deal with the spiritual we deny people physical peace’.  She emphasised the training which is going on in this area to encourage clinical staff to recognise and respond to spiritual needs.
Dr Groves finished by saying, ‘clinicians can address spiritual needs, can assess spiritual needs, be aware of religious needs, become more confident and empower people to find their own solutions and to work in teams with clergy and chaplaincy.  Why do we bother?  Because we only have one opportunity to get it right, for each individual and family there is no rehearsal’.

Listen to Dr Karen Groves
Dr Ged Corcoran, former Clinical director of Woodlands Hospice and now attached to the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute in Liverpool, spoke of the challenges faced in palliative care.  He said there is a need to provide optimal care and support for families pointing out that clinicians are ‘not helping people to die but helping people at the time of their dying’.  He concluded: ‘we have to have an ongoing debate, it’s not just about medicine, it’s about compassion, communication and fundamental humanity’.

Listen to Dr Ged Corcoran
Bishop Tom Williams thanked the speakers and spoke of the privilege of caring for the dying as a humbling experience.