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36,000 cancer patients denied their last wish to die at home

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Almost three quarters of cancer patients in England who die in hospital beds wanted to die at home, according to new figures released today by Macmillan Cancer Support.

The charity said up to 36,000 people were dying in hospital against their wishes due to a lack of social care, which as well as being a poor patient experience also put pressure on already strateched accident and emergency departments.

Analysis of a recent national survey of bereaved relatives and carers reveals that for cancer patients last year, care in hospitals was often subpar to the care received at home. Of those who died at home, 63% rated the overall quality of care received as excellent or outstanding, compared to only 37% of those who died in hospitals.

Furthermore, the survey found 41% of people with terminal cancer were not always treated with dignity and respect by hospital doctors during their last hospital admission.

Existing Macmillan research reveals that the vast majority of health professionals (96%) agree that access to social care services is crucial for keeping people out of hospital.

The charity has launched a new report, Time to choose, which sets out new recommendations for improving choice at end of life for cancer patients. It also calls on the Government to make social care free for everyone in the last weeks of life before the end of this Parliament in 2015. 

Ciarán 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.”

Macmillan Cancer Support is calling on the Government and the NHS to adopt the recommendations in the Time to choose report.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • but what can be done with cut-backs in all areas of care? People should die at home if proper care is put in place and most relatives are able to give some time and attention to their loved ones. Support needed to advice and encourage teme, as well as GP, and community care team

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