Almost three-quarters of cancer patients in England who die in hospital beds would prefer to die at home, figures suggest.
This is the equivalent of 36,000 cancer patients every year, the estimated data from Macmillan Cancer Support showed.
It comes as the charity launched a new report setting out recommendations for improving choice at the end of life.
It is also calling on the government to make social care free for everyone in their last weeks.
The 2012 National Bereavement Survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed relatives and carers of cancer patients who died thought care in hospitals was often sub-par to care received at home.
Some 63% of those whose loved one died at home rated the overall quality of care received as excellent or outstanding, compared to only 37% of those whose loved one died in hospital.
And 41% of people with terminal cancer were not always treated with dignity and respect by hospital doctors, the survey found.
Macmillan said too many people are still spending their last hours and days on hospital wards, two years after the Palliative Care Funding Review (PCFR) recommended free social care for those at the end of life.
Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “As the government makes up its mind about whether to fund and implement free social care at the end of life, thousands of people with terminal cancer are being left to die in hospital beds against their wishes.
“This is putting an unnecessary strain on our A&E departments because people are not getting access to social care for themselves or for their carers which would enable them to be cared for in the comfort of their own home.
“It’s simply not good enough to pay lip service to this issue - we need to see action. If the government wants the NHS to deliver world-class care at the end of life in the UK, it needs to start by giving people a real choice about where they die.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We are committed to improving and increasing the choice available for patients at the end of their life so they can choose where to spend their last days.
“As part of our work to improve end of life care, the current system for funding palliative care is being reviewed, with the intention to introduce a new system in 2015-16.”
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