Does your Surgery have a policy when a patient dies?
You might ask why you might need a policy on this – but it is extremely important in various areas. Let me share these with you.
When one of your patients dies you will probably be notified by one of the following
- A member of family or a friend
- A Carer
- The local hospital (usually comes in the form of a letter or fax)
- The Out Of Hours Service
- A Nursing Home (this will normally come via a telephone call)
- The Health Visitor from your own Surgery (if they were caring for the patient at home)
- Local Health Authority (the patient might had died in another area/country)
- You might see it in the local paper under the births deaths column.
The next step is to record the death on your computer records. If your system does not do all of these automatically you will need to ensure that they are taken off. Ensure that the patient is taken off any clinics that might generate recall letters such as
- Flu Clinic
- Diabetic Clinic
- Asthma Clinic
- Blood Pressure Clinics and so on.
If your surgery is mostly computer run it is still very important to make sure that an entry is made in the paper notes.
How does your Surgery record patient deaths?
I worked in a surgery before we have our death protocol in place where a very upset wife phoned to say that a letter had been sent out to her husband to have his flu vaccination done – he had died 3 months before. Although someone had entered that he was deceased on his records he had not been taken off the flu recall.
Link up any close member of their family and add to their records that they have been recently bereaved – this will help the Doctor if a member of the family comes in to see them. There is nothing worse than the Doctor asking after the deceased patient. And believe me this has happened on several occasions.
Ensure than any future surgery appointments are cancelled.
Remove patient details for any routine repeat prescriptions.
It is important that you put a stop to any further prescriptions – I am happy to say that it didn’t happen at my Surgery but there have been surgeries that have had people coming in to request repeat prescriptions for deceased patients and because they had not got a policy in place the prescriptions were issued – several times
Who you should informed of the deceased patients death will depend on where the patient died.
If The deceased Patient dies at home / or other place please check to see if they have any future hospital appointments booked.
The most important thing you should check with your local hospital to see if they had any outstanding hospital appointments.
Ask the hospital to check if the deceased patient had any hospital transport booked. Why?
Again before our Surgery policy was put in place we had a deceased patient who’s funeral was taking place one Thursday morning – the wife of the deceased heard a knock at the door and thinking it was the undertakers she opened the door to find that hospital transport was there to take the deceased patient for his hospital appointment. Now can you see the importance of ensuring that all future appointments are cancelled?
WHO YOU SHOULD INFORM WITHIN THE SURGERY?
It is important for all staff to be made aware of the death of any patient. How do you record the death of a patient in your surgery?
- Inform the Doctor
- Inform the Health Visitor (in the event of a child or pregnant mother)
- Inform the Health Visitor (in the event that they were due to start visiting the patient)
- Inform any other healthcare professional that might have a reason to be in contact with the deceased patient.
The best way for this is to send an internal email – and if necessary put it in the message book.
When we reviewed our policy on deceased patients I designed a form that had to be completed. We had a member of staff that had the responsibility of ensuring that everyone was informed of the death. Each section had to be completed or ticked and at the end of the form a surgery supervisor had to sign it too – and this copy was then scanned onto the patient’s records and the paper copy placed in their medical records.
You can design your own form but an idea on what we had on our form:
- Patients Name and Address
- DOB (date of birth)
- Place of Death (ie home/hospital/other)
- Computer code entered (RIP code)
- Deduction Requested (deduction from surgery list)
- Next of Kin (entry made on their notes)
- Hospital Notified – if applicable (I recommend that this should be done in a fax/email and not verbal.)
- Hospital Transport Cancelled
- Surgery Appointments cancelled
- Doctor informed
- Health Visitor Informed
- District Nurse Informed
- Other staff informed
- Prescriptions Stopped
- RIP Message on Notes
- Records returned to the Health Authority
- Any other areas that might be applicable to your Surgery
I hope you have found this helpful. The important thing is to ensure that family / friends are not subjected to any more upset because their loved ones are still on your surgery system as still living.
REMEMBER: This will be the last thing you will do for the deceased patient – show them the dignity they deserve.
I did go on to have an “alert” board where we also put this information. You can read this on my blog :
Patients With Special Needs (Special Needs Board) http://t.co/wnWKmxHV