VOICES can be heard

The National Survey of Bereaved People — VOICES (which stands for Views of Informal Carers Evaluation of Services) was commissioned by the Department of Health in 2011 and 2012, and NHS England from 2013. Administered by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) it collates information regarding a bereaved person’s views on the quality of care provided to a friend or relative within the last 3 months of that person’s life.

This insightful data is integral for any professional working with clients who are receiving end of life care, or managing estates alongside families of those who have passed away. If care provision isn’t sufficient, it could significantly shorten a person’s life, as well as cause added distress for loved ones. VOICES results allow any person or their family to make informed decisions on plans for future care, and decide which facilities are right for their needs. It’s also in the best interest of will writers, estate planners and probate practitioners to ensure end of life and post-death circumstances run as smoothly as possible, to help avoid unnecessary conflicts and legal action.

VOICES is primarily used to measure changes in the delivery of NHS care, to ensure the care received is at the right level. It also measures the quality of communication between carers and relatives. The most recent dataset was extracted from a survey based on the opinions of over 21,000 bereaved persons.

The 2014 survey established relatives of those who died in hospital rated the overall quality of care significantly worse than any other place. Almost 31% rated care in hospitals as fair or poor, compared to the lowest rate of 17% rating care as fair or poor in hospices. Respondents for approximately 8 out of 10 people who died in hospices (83%), care homes (82%) or their own home (79%) rated care as outstanding, excellent or good. Hospitals were significantly lower, with 7 out of 10 (69%) respondents rating care as outstanding, excellent or good.

In addition, the findings showed that respondents conveyed they believed the majority of patients (86%) were involved in decisions about their care, and were as much as they wanted to be.

NHS England and The Liverpool Pathway have a vested interest in the results. VOICES statistics provide data which will enable the impact of end of life care policies to be monitored.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) quality standards for End of Life Care for Adults, emphasises the importance of people approaching the end of life are feeling satisfied that they have been able to discuss, record and review their needs and preferences and take a role in planning and decision-making, if they would like to do so.

Do your clients find it difficult making decisions on end of life care? Are you surprised that respondents favour care provision elsewhere than in a hospital?

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