Hospitals `mishandling death'

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Dying NHS patients are being under-prescribed painkillers by poorly trained staff needlessly fearful of side-effects such as breathing difficulties or addiction, according to a study.

The mishandling of death extends to relatives who are left distressed by poor communication after a family member has just died.

Previous studies showed doctors were too busy to talk to bereaved relatives, but researchers from London's King's College Medical School and St Christopher's Hospice found that nurses were now also too busy.

Variations in the handling of deaths, 60 per cent of which happen in hospitals, is blamed on the lack of clear guidelines from the Department of Health.