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NICE: Nurses should ask dying patients about spiritual beliefs

Monday 6th March 2017
Nurses asking dying patients about their spiritual beliefs could help to improve end-of-life care in the UK, according to NICE. Image: bowdenimages via iStock
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    Nurses should actively ask patients who are nearing the end of their lives about their religious and spiritual beliefs to ensure their final days can be as peaceful and comforting as possible.

    This is the opinion of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which is looking into ways that end-of-life care can be improved throughout the UK.

    Of all of the deaths that occur in Britain each year, it is believed that medical staff are aware of the approach of three in every four and could therefore play a key role in making sure patients can receive comfort in line with their individual spiritual beliefs as their lives come to an end.

    There are significant differences to the ways in which people from different cultural and religious backgrounds want to prepare for their deaths. For example, it is important to many Catholics to hear the last prayers and ministrations, whereas people without specific religious beliefs may not be quite as comforted by prayers and references to a god.

    However, according to NICE's 2016 End of Life Care Audit, spiritual beliefs were only documented for one in seven people known to be approaching the end of their life.

    With this in mind, NICE is calling for nursing staff to be more proactive about asking patients for details of their religious and spiritual beliefs to ensure they feel as peaceful and comforted as possible in their final days.

    Sam Ahmedzai, emeritus professor of palliative medicine and a specialist member of the NICE quality standard committee, commented: "Control of pain and other distressing symptoms is very important for dying people, but good end-of-life care goes far beyond that.

    "It includes asking about the dying person's spiritual, cultural, religious and social preferences. Only by attending to these issues and concerns can we deliver truly individualised care for each person and those important to them."

    NICE also wants to see patients known to be nearing death to be more closely monitored for changes to their condition so they can be made as comfortable as possible and their loved ones can be informed to say their goodbyes.

    Written by James Puckle

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