NICE publishes new end of life care quality standard

NICE, the healthcare guidance body, has today (30 November) published its new quality standard for end of life care for adults.

NICE quality standards (QS) are a set of specific, succinct statements and measures that describe aspirational but achievable care for adult patients across the NHS in England. They are developed in collaboration with the NHS and social care sectors, using the best available evidence, such as NICE guidance or other NHS Evidence accredited sources.

Around half a million people die each year in Englandi and the issues considered to be important at this time can differ enormously from one person to another. Preparation for death, communication with carers and physicians that is sensitive and responsive, and being treated with dignity and respect are often deemed significant.

This new quality standard includes 16 statements for the care of adults (18 years and older) with advanced, progressive, or incurable conditions who are approaching the end of their life and are expected to die within the next 12 months. The end of life definition 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. The standard also covers support for the families and carers of such people.

The quality standard statements include:

  • People approaching the end of life and their families and carers are communicated with, and offered information, in an accessible and sensitive way in response to their needs and preferences.
  • People approaching the end of life are offered spiritual and religious support appropriate to their needs and preferences.
  • People approaching the end of life have their 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.

Dr Fergus Macbeth, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE said: "The end of life quality standard recognises that compassion, kindness and consideration are hugely important for all those involved in caring 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. 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."

Simon Chapman, Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs at the National Council for Palliative Care, said: "We only get one chance to get it right for people at the end of their lives, which is why it is so important to ensure high quality end of life care is universal. We welcome NICE's emphasis that people should get the care they need “at any time of day and night”. 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."

The quality standard is available on the NICE website from Wednesday 30 November at:


Notes to Editors


i. Department of Health End of Life Care Strategy - promoting high quality care for all adults at the end of life

About Quality Standards

  • More information on NICE quality standards
  • Quality standard topics are referred to NICE by ministers on the advice of the National Quality Board, a group of representatives from health and social care, committed to improving quality in the NHS and overseeing the reforms aimed at improving care. Further information on the National Quality Board.
  • The quality standard does not cover condition-specific management and care, clinical management of specific physical symptoms and side effects, or emergency planning and mass casualty incidents.
  • Endorsement organisations (previously known as publication partners) are organisations who share a commitment to driving up the quality of care for patients within the relevant clinical areas. These organisations have agreed to support quality standards and use their communication channels to maximise dissemination.
  • The following have agreed to be endorsement organisations for the end of life care quality standard: College of Occupational Therapists, Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Chaplains, Sarcoma UK, Compassion in Dying, National End of Life Care Programme, Pancreatic Cancer UK, Resuscitation Council, the National Council for Palliative Care, The Patients Association, Macmillan Cancer Care, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), The Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Association (PSPA), UK Community Advisory Board (UK-CAB) and Brainstrust.
  • Any sister organisations, partners or affiliates of the endorsement organisations listed are not in any way, involved in the development of quality standards.

About NICE

1. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance and standards on the promotion of good health and the prevention and treatment of ill health.

2. NICE produces guidance in three areas of health:

  • public health - guidance on the promotion of good health and the prevention of ill health for those working in the NHS, local authorities and the wider public and voluntary sector
  • health technologies - guidance on the use of new and existing medicines, treatments, medical technologies (including devices and diagnostics) and procedures within the NHS
  • clinical practice - guidance on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions within the NHS.

3. NICE produces standards for patient care:

  • quality standards - these reflect the very best in high quality patient care, to help healthcare practitioners and commissioners of care deliver excellent services
  • Quality and Outcomes Framework - NICE develops the clinical and health improvement indicators in the QOF, the Department of Health scheme which rewards GPs for how well they care for patients.

4. NICE provides advice and support on putting NICE guidance and standards into practice throughits implementation programme, and it collates and accredits high quality health guidance, research and information to help health professionals deliver the best patient care through NHS Evidence.

This page was last updated: 30 November 2011

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Selected, reliable information for health and social care in one place

Accessibility | Cymraeg | Freedom of information | Vision Impaired | Contact Us | Glossary | Data protection | Copyright | Disclaimer | Terms and conditions

Copyright 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. All rights reserved.