27 June 2018

The findings of the Gosport War Memorial Hospital report are deeply concerning and very distressing for the families of those who died at the hospital.

The report focuses on the inappropriate use of strong painkillers to people admitted to a hospital for rehabilitative and respite care who were not approaching the end of life. In addition, there has been much media coverage around the concerns of using certain types of syringe driver pumps to administer painkillers to patients.

We recognise this could raise questions about the use of strong painkillers and certain syringe drivers in all care settings.

Strong painkillers such as opioids are widely used in palliative care to manage pain experienced by people approaching the end of their lives. These types of painkillers are uniquely effective in managing pain and other symptoms associated with many life-limiting illnesses. Research shows that appropriate use of opioid medication does not shorten lives and is safe and effective for managing pain with appropriate prescribing and monitoring in place.

We do not use the syringe drivers concerned, having removed them from service in co-ordination with the rest of Oxfordshire Health Services following guidelines from the Department of Health in 2010. We only use syringe drivers recommended nationally as being safe and effective for palliative care. We adhere to local and national guidelines on the administration of strong painkillers and use of syringe drivers and have rigorous procedures in place to ensure safe practice. Our Clinical team has considerable expertise in this area and longstanding experience in ensuring that doses of medication and means of administration are appropriate to patients’ individual needs.

The foundation of the care we provide is the philosophy of the hospice movement and the ethos of palliative care, which is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychological and spiritual”.

We believe that the principal purpose of medicine is to improve patients’ quality of life, not to foreshorten it. We recognise dying as a natural process, and the care we provide focuses on helping patients and their families to live as fully as possible with their illness, and supporting them to die with dignity. Our care is never given with the intention of hastening death, but to use our expertise to help people feel as comfortable and dignified as possible in their last hours, days, weeks or months.

If you are a patient or family member and you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the person in charge of your care at Katharine House.