National guidance for NHS Trusts engaging with bereaved families

NHS England has worked with families, carers, professionals and a range of other stakeholders to develop new guidance for NHS trusts on how to engage with families and carers whose loved one has died.

The purpose of this guidance is to provide advice to NHS trusts and foundation trusts (and services commissioned by NHS specialised commissioning) regarding expected practice on how to engage, and work effectively with families following a death.

This national guidance has been published in response to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report: ‘Learning, candour and accountability: A review of the way NHS trusts review and investigate the deaths of patients in England‘.

The report emphasised that significant improvements in how trusts engage with families were required. These included the recognition that families’ experiences and insights are a valuable source of learning; and that families and carers should be treated as equal partners to identify opportunities for improvement.

Since 2017 NHS England has engaged with over 70 families, NHS Improvement, Care Quality Commission (CQC), NHS trusts, voluntary sector organisations and a range of other stakeholders. Families’ feedback and comments have shaped the guidance. Their comments were gathered through online and offline engagement including listening events, social media, and monthly email updates.

The guidance is accompanied by ‘information for bereaved families’ (available as an editable PDF, easy-read and plain text), which trusts should share with families following bereavement as a supplement to the their own information and resources about bereavement and support for families.

The guidance is only one part of the Learning from Deaths programme and complements other guidance developed as part of the broader programme being led by NQB.

This guidance has the potential to produce the dramatic change CQC proposed, reducing trauma to the bereaved and give real meaning to the term ‘learning from deaths’ and make sure that a consistent, quality approach to engagement with families is in place across England.