Baroness Julia Neuberger has been appointed to carry out a review of the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP). She is a crossbench peer, Rabbi and former chief executive of the King’s Fund.

The LCP gives guidance to doctors to help patients at the end of life but its use has recently been very publically criticised by patients and relatives. The complaints include allegations that people were not told when their relatives had been placed on the LCP and that patients on it were denied food and water. As we reported in our September Health Legal Update, the anti-euthanasia charity, Alert, has been distributing cards which read “please do not give me the Liverpool Care Pathway treatment without my informed consent or that of a relative”.

In order to conduct the review, a panel of experts is to be set up which will oversee investigations into complaints made by bereaved relatives. The review is expected to report by the summer.

The Care Service Minister, Norman Lamb, has said that the LCP should not be scrapped but accepts that it will need to change.

As we reported in our December Heath Legal Update, the DH has inserted a passage into the draft revised NHS Constitution confirming the right of patients and their family to be involved in all discussions and decisions about health and care, including their end-of-life care, and it is against that background that the review is being undertaken.

We will of course update you once the review is published but in the meantime we would simply remind you that relatives and patients may not understand what it means to be on the LCP and it is important to explain to them what end-of-life care will look like. Good communication will result in better understanding and hopefully less acrimonious complaints.