Top doctor: NHS is killing off 130,000 elderly patients a year

From the UK Daily Mail:

NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday.

Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly.

He claimed there was often a lack of clear evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country.

It is designed to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent.

It can include withdrawal of treatment – including the provision of water and nourishment by tube – and on average brings a patient to death in 33 hours.

There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP.

Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’.

He cited ‘pressure on beds and difficulty with nursing confused or difficult-to-manage elderly patients’ as factors.

Professor Pullicino revealed he had personally intervened to take a patient off the LCP who went on to be successfully treated.

[…]Professor Pullicino, a consultant neurologist for East Kent Hospitals and Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Kent, was speaking to the Royal Society of Medicine in London.

[…]He said: ‘The lack of evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway makes it an assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway.

‘Very likely many elderly patients who could live substantially longer are being killed by the LCP.

‘Patients are frequently put on the pathway without a proper analysis of their condition.

More from a different UK Daily Mail article:

The health service ‘looks like a supertanker heading for an iceberg’, the head of the NHS Confederation has warned.

His comment came as a survey revealed the squeeze on NHS finances is so serious that almost half of its leaders think it will reduce quality of care for patients over the next year.

The research, carried out before the confederation’s annual conference in Manchester, shows that NHS leaders fear that growing financial pressures will mean treatment rationing and longer waiting times.

Of the 252 chief executives and chairs of NHS organisations questioned, almost half believe the financial burden on the health service is ‘very serious’ and 47 per cent say this means quality of care will reduce over the next 12 months.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the confederation which represents organisations providing NHS services, said: ‘Despite huge efforts to maintain standards of patient care in the current financial year, healthcare leaders are deeply concerned about the storm clouds that are gathering around the NHS.

‘Our survey shows that many NHS leaders see finances getting worse and that this is already having a growing impact on their patients. In response, they are cutting costs in the short term but they know that much more radical solutions are the only answer in the long run.

[…]Mr Farrar added that politicians had ‘consistently failed’ to put the long-term interests of the population’s health above their short-term electoral interests.

[…]Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association said: ‘This survey confirms what everybody inside the health and social care system is already saying – the next decade is likely to be the most challenging one in the history of the NHS.

‘Treatments are being rationed, waiting times for elective procedures are going up and patients continue to be treated poorly on our hospital wards.

In a government-run system, whether you get treatment or not depends on a bureaucrat, whose only desire is to be re-elected. Sometimes, killing you is the best way for them to get re-elected, as seen in the euthanasia numbers. But, in a private health care system, it makes no sense to kill patients, because then the money stops coming in. Doctors actually care about you in a for profit system. They want to help you, and they want you to live.

3 thoughts on “Top doctor: NHS is killing off 130,000 elderly patients a year”

  1. It’s been a while – so I will bite on this one. For one, there are way too many documented cases in our system of families continuing care in patients that have no chance of ever surviving. My wife is currently “treating” two kids that are brain dead and have been so for well over three months – one at a cost of several thousand dollars a day to the tax payers and one at a cost of almost ten thousand dollars a day to the family’s private insurance.

    As for elderly patients, nobody wants to die, but it’s a fact of life – I would bet my two kids lives that if you were to have a panel of doctors review the so-cold mercy killings you complain about in your article, you would find that over 99% had only one possible outcome – death. The difference is, the NHS let the doctors – those whom are experts in this arena, make that call while you advocate for a more customer service oriented structure that lets those with an emotional attachment make the call on how to spend millions per patient of someone else’s money.

    As for your last paragraph – private insurance is by far the worst – the one patient that is costing her parents approximately ten thousand dollars a day is because the private insurance thought it could save some money and refused to pay for a test that could have detected the problem before it became terminal and her parents didn’t have the money to pay out of pocket. So their 6 year will die as opposed to going home as she should have. What you should have really said is that we have a choice between doctors (not bureaucrats) or private companies whose executive board’s bonuses depends on denying your care as much as possible – the three D’s of insurance – delay, deny, defend…


    1. But patients can at least switch out of insurance companies that don’t perform. You can stop paying for it. With the NHS, you pay up front when you don’t need anything, and then when you get old and need something, they’ve already spent the money on other people. You don’t get your money back. And you can’t sue them, either, because it’s the government. I would rather be treated by a doctor who knew that my money was in my pocket and he would only get it by keeping me alive. That’s the beauty of free trade and the profit motive.


      1. skirting the truth a bit there, at least for the USA. There are government imposed monopolies, so while you can in theory switch insurance companies, those that are allowed to sell in a certain area have all calibrated their policies to match, so there is in effect no choice. On top of that, I personally know of no doctor or hospital that is paid on results, they’re paid on procedure, so they don’t get paid to keep you alive, they get paid to see you. If you die, they still get paid, and if it’s by an insurance company, it’s not much after the overhead required to actually get paid (not much different from the government).

        Add to that, insurance companies have a long list of gotchas like they don’t pay for second opinions. So if you’re a doctor and you’re seeing a patient that is coming in for a second opinion and they don’t tell you until they get in to your office, you’re screwed out of that time. They don’t pay for procedures/medicines that are outside of their own internal guidelines of practice despite any positive results it might bring. There are many more and why is this? It cuts in to their profits.

        I have no problem getting rid of government medical programs, but before we do, we need to make medical insurance non-profit, and before you say that it won’t work, there are many extremely successful examples around the globe (look at Germany and Switzerland).


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