The government has ordered hospitals to carry out immediate reviews of their end-of-late practices and announced the phasing out of the Liverpool Care Pathway.
In announcing the plans, Care Services Minister Norman Lamb called for "a more personal approach" to end-of-life care after the recent scandal at Mid Staffordshire Hospital in which reports claimed that some patients on the so-called 'pathway to death' were denied basic rights.
The Pathway will be replaced by individual end-of-life care plans within a year after an independent concluded it was being "misused" in many areas.
Thoughtful & careful end-of-life care
Lamb added:"We hope the actions we have taken today will reassure patients and their families that everyone coming to the end of their life is getting the best possible care and that concerns are being dealt with swiftly.
"I have personally heard families describe staff slavishly following a process without care or compassion and leaving people suffering at the end of their lives. This is something we cannot allow to go on.
"People's final days should be as comfortable and dignified as possible. That is why there is a place for thoughtful and careful end-of-life care that involves patients and their families, but it is clear what we have now needs to be replaced so we can create a better way of doing this."
The review was set up at the turn of the year amid concerns with the way the LCP was being used and the fact that hospitals were being financially rewarded for using it. The LCP is recommended as best practice in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as England; Wales has its own system.
The review, which took evidence from patients and health staff as well as reviewing literature, concluded a "deeply distressing" picture had emerged of patients being left without adequate nutrition and hydration across several hospitals.