The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has finalised new quality standards for end of life care for patients and their families and carers.
Fifteen statements are included for the care of adults with advanced, progressive, or incurable conditions who are approaching the end of their life and are expected to die within the next 12 months.
It also includes adults with existing conditions who are at risk of dying from a sudden, acute crisis in their condition, or those with life-threatening acute conditions caused by sudden catastrophic events.
NICE said that it had taken into account the preparation for death, communication with carers and physicians that is sensitive and responsive and being treated with dignity and respect were often deemed significant factors.
The quality standard statements include:
• communication and information offered in an accessible and sensitive way in response to needs and preferences,
• spiritual and religious support offered appropriate to needs and preferences,
• physical and specific psychological needs safely, effectively and appropriately met at any time of day or night, including access to medicines and equipment,
• people closely affected by a death are communicated with in a sensitive way and are offered immediate and ongoing bereavement, emotional and spiritual support appropriate to their needs and preferences.
The quality standards apply across the NHS in England and were described by NICE as ‘aspirational but achievable'.
Dr Fergus Macbeth, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE said the end of life quality standard recognised the importance of compassion, kindness and consideration for people at the end of their life.
"Patients should have their voices heard in decisions about their care, be treated as individuals, with dignity, sensitivity and respect and be offered appropriate psychological, social and spiritual support," he said.
"They also want to be assured that their families and carers will receive support during their illness and following their death.
"I'm sure this standard will be welcomed as a useful aid during what is inevitably a very difficult and highly emotional time," he added.
Simon Chapman, director of policy and parliamentary affairs at the National Council for Palliative Care, added: "This is a powerful but necessary challenge to the NHS to ensure that people approaching the end of life receive the support and care they need, where and when they need it.
"Local services now need to deliver and be held accountable to this quality standard."