Background: Despite a recent increased awareness of the need for quality End of Life (EOL) care for patients with advanced kidney disease, there is no established method for measuring or auditing outcomes relating to EOL care in this population.
Methods: We designed a one-page proforma, which was used to collect data on various aspects of EOL care relating to all deaths of patients on dialysis and patients dying on specialist renal wards, over a predefined 8-week period in 10 hospitals in London and South-East England.
Results: One hundred and thirty-eight deaths were recorded over the 8-week study period. The majority of patients (83%) were receiving maintenance haemodialysis prior to their terminal presentation. About 69% of deaths occurred during an in-patient hospital admission-of these, 36% were considered 'unexpected' and most quality markers of good EOL management were significantly less likely to be achieved in these patients, including use of palliative care strategies, good symptom control and overall quality of death. Thirty-six per cent of patients were from various ethnic minorities, and in this group, there was a trend towards lower use of palliative care pathways and lower rates of withdrawal from dialysis.
Conclusions: This study confirms that it is possible to measure many important outcomes relating to quality of EOL care using a proforma completed at the time of death. Our findings suggest that many aspects of good EOL care are under-achieved in our region. This, in part, is due to a failure to recognize the worsening trajectory of the deteriorating patient, resulting in missed opportunities for EOL care planning and appropriate symptom control. Our observations suggest that there is a need for improved education and training in this area, particularly in detection of the dying patient, the value of advance care planning and the utility of tools such as the Liverpool Care Pathway.