Charities in plea to improve end of life care


Almost 50,000 people a year in England experience poor care in the final months of their life, according to a new report.

A coalition of seven charities said more needs to be done to enable people who want to die at home rather than in hospital to fulfil their final wish.

One in 10 people (an estimated 48,000) who die receive poor care, including some who receive inadequate pain relief and no help with washing or dressing, a report from the charities said.

It includes examples from families, with one daughter telling how she faced an uphill struggle to get a home visit for her mother, and a family who experienced mix-ups with pain medication.

The charities - including Macmillan Cancer Support, Hospice UK, Sue Ryder and Marie Curie - called on the Government to implement the findings of a national review into end of life care.

The report was published exactly a year ago but the Government has not produced a response or plan of what it intends to do, the charities said.

Recommendations in the review included access to 24/7 community nursing and a record of a person's preferences for care at the end of their life.

The new charity report - On The Brink: The Future Of End Of Life Care - highlights failures in the care of dying people.

It said some are unable to get access to social care for help with everyday tasks such as washing and changing clothes, while families are left without proper guidance or advice on how to care for their dying loved ones.

The lack of support to die at home means too many people die in hospitals, the report said.

Dying people spend an average of 13 days in hospital - accounting for 2.9 million days in a hospital bed every year.

Almost 90% of those who die in hospital do so following an emergency admission, but better support in the community could help prevent this, the report said.

In one study, only 8% of Marie Curie patients died in a hospital compared with 42% of people without a Marie Curie nurse.

Only 12% of Marie Curie patients experienced an emergency admission to hospital compared with 35% of people without one.

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said of the 48,000 figure: "This is an astonishing and dismaying number of people being without the care and support they deserve in their final days.

"No relative or carer should be left feeling that their loved one had experienced poor care at such an important and precious time. It is unacceptable that lasting memories are being tainted by pain being poorly managed."

Meanwhile, a separate study funded by the Dimbleby Cancer Care and Marie Curie found elderly widowed carers turn to antidepressants following the death of a loved one.

The carers had husbands, wives and partners who had had cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or dementia.

The study of 13,693 bereaved partners also found an increase in the use of sleeping tablets and drugs for anxiety.

The typical age of dementia carers in the study was 82, the COPD carers 77 and the cancer carers 75.

A spokesman from NHS England said an Office for National Statistics survey of 20,000 bereaved people found three quarters rated end-of-life care for their relative as good or better.

He added: "However, any instances of poor care should be taken seriously and we want to continue improving people's experience of care, which is why we are working with other agencies and charities to support local commissioners to meet the needs of their local populations.

"We would encourage relatives who have concerns about the care their loved one received to raise these with the relevant professionals, where they should be taken seriously and used to inform local improvement."