Hospitals have been accused of letting down dying patients after a survey found that staff are less likely to show dignity and respect to people at the end of their lives than their counterparts in hospices.
A survey of bereaved family members found that 87% of doctors and 80% of nurses in hospices showed dignity and respect “all the time”.
But the Office of National Statistics (ONS) research showed that the figures in hospitals fell to 57% for doctors and 48% for nurses.
The data, collated by the ONS to examine end of life care, showed that hospitals were also the most common place for people to die.
Imelda Redmond, Marie Curie Cancer Care’s director of policy and public affairs, said: “This is the first time bereaved relatives have been given a voice. Families have told us, in large numbers, that their loved ones do not always get the care they need or deserve at the end of life.
“Hospitals are letting people down at a crucial time and this poor care is leaving behind memories of loved ones being treated with little dignity and respect, and dying in pain. This is simply not good enough.
“Good quality care can be provided at the end of life. The care received in hospices and at home was highly regarded by relatives.
“We only have one opportunity to get end of life care right.
“There is no reason why we can’t provide a dignified and respectful death, regardless of setting, location or diagnosis. It is now time to learn from these findings and make improvements.”
The survey, commissioned by the Department of Health, also found that three-quarters of people in England thought the care given in the last three months of life was good, excellent or outstanding.
Eve Richardson, chief executive of the National Council for Palliative Care and the Dying Matters Coalition, said: “Although it is encouraging that three-quarters of people who have been bereaved reported in this survey that the care received had been outstanding, excellent or good, it’s a real concern that the quality of care people who are dying receive appears to vary so hugely, with hospitals performing especially badly.
“There is absolutely no excuse for not treating people who are dying with dignity and respect, which is why it is disturbing that hospital staff appear to be failing to do this consistently.
“We need a new deal for people who are dying, with mandatory end of life training for all staff and much more done to listen and act upon people’s preferences about where they want to be cared for at the end of life, which for most people is in their home and not in hospital.”
Care services minister Paul Burstow said: “All people, regardless of their age or condition, should get the best quality care at the end of life.
“(This survey) reveals a wide variation in the quality of care across the country.
“There is more to be done to improve both the way care is co-ordinated for people in their own homes and the quality of care in hospital.
“We are already working with hospices, the NHS and social care to pilot new ways of working and put in place a secure funding system to support palliative care.
“These results will help health and social care to benchmark the care they deliver and learn from the best.”