A hospice charity has launched a bid to reduce the number of people dying unnecessarily in hospital.
Help the Hospices wants the government to back a major programme to cut the number of people dying in hospital by 50,000 each year – around a fifth of the total annual hospital deaths in the UK.
“Hospital should be the last resort at the end of life, not the first one”
The charity claims it would lead to higher quality, better targeted care for dying people and could generate savings of up to £80m per year for the NHS.
The new initiative will offer people increased choice about where they die, in line with their personal preferences. It will be aimed at dying people who often “fall through gaps” in the care system and remain in hospital at the end of life because alternative options have not even been considered.
Under the scheme, the charity is offering a partnership between the NHS and the hospice movement to fund six nationally co-ordinated pilot projects to evaluate the impact of hospice-led interventions in reducing unnecessary deaths in hospital that would begin in April 2015.
Following completion of the pilots, the programme would then be rolled out nationally from April 2017.
Announcing the new programme, Help the Hospices chair and former Conservative Party leader Lord Howard said: “Hospital should be the last resort at the end of life, not the first one.”
Dr Ros Taylor, director of the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, and a trustee of Help the Hospices, said: “Hospices are already successfully delivering alternative models of care and also working with other organisations in their local communities to better co-ordinate care for dying people.
“However, this needs to be radically scaled up if our society is to address the crisis of care facing dying people and enable them to access the support they desperately need and deserve.”
“We only have one chance to get it right for people who are dying”
National Council for Palliative Care chief executive Claire Henry said: “We welcome this initiative by Help the Hospices and share their concerns about the importance of tackling the challenges in care for dying people.
“We only have one chance to get it right for people who are dying, which is why there needs to be a much greater focus on meeting people’s end of life wishes, including by supporting more people to be cared for and die in the community rather than in hospital which for many people isn’t where they want to be.”
Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, added: “It is crucial the government understands the needs of people at the end of life and puts in place the support they need so that they can spend their last few days or weeks in the place of their choosing.
“An estimated 36,000 people with cancer die in hospital each year when they would have preferred to have died at home, so this is a hugely important issue.”