Over the course of the next Parliament, approximately 1.4 million people could die in hospital when their preference was to die at home.
This is the finding of a coalition of charities who warn that unless action is taken by the next Government, people at the end of life will continue to occupy hospital beds unnecessarily and put pressure on overstretched A&E departments.
Half of the 550,000 UK deaths occur in hospital each year, but over four in five (85%) of those who die in hospital wanted to die at home. The charities suggest that this is due to a number of factors including the lack of 24/7 community support, poor coordination between services and the failure to provide fast and free social care support for people at the end of life.
There is scope for efficiency savings to be made by supporting those who want to spend their final days at home to do so. With access to high quality nursing care in the community, total care costs can be as much as £500 lower per person4. All political parties have made some kind of commitment to improve choice at the end of life and to support more people to die at home.
On behalf of the coalition of charities, Dr Jane Collins, Chief Executive of Marie Curie said: “It’s time to change the way we care for people with a terminal illness. Fewer than 5% of people say they want to be in hospital at the end of their lives, yet around 50% of people who die do so in hospital, often with no clinical need to be there. Pressure is increasing on NHS budgets and A&E departments are already over-stretched. The evidence shows that it makes financial sense for the NHS to support people to be cared for at home in their last weeks and days. This is also what the majority of people with a terminal illness would prefer. Together, we are calling on all parties and the next Government to set out how they will introduce fast and free social care for everyone nearing the end of their lives to reduce pressure on hospitals and deliver genuine choice.”
The coalition include Hospice UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, MNDA, National Council for Palliative Care and Sue Ryder.