The proportion of people dying at home or in care homes increased from 38% in 2008 to 44% in 2012, according to a report on end of life care from Public Health England.
Evidence suggests that around 24,000 more people died at home or in care homes in 2012, compared to four years ago – reflecting the desires of many people to stay at home to die.
But the What We Know Now report also found large variations in the proportion of deaths in hospital from 2009-11. Local authorities with highest and lowest rates ranged from 69% in some areas to 38% in others.
Last week Macmillan Cancer Support said almost three-quarters of cancer patients in England – equivalent to 36,000 people – who died in hospital beds would prefer to die at home.
Eve Richardson, chief executive of the National Council for Palliative Care and the Dying Matters Coalition, said: “Understanding how and where people die, and the range of services and support available, is essential if we are to ensure compassionate and dignified end of life care is available for us all.
“Although very welcome improvements in end of life care continue to be made, there remain some very real challenges, especially in ensuring that all people, whoever they are, whatever their needs and wherever they live, are able to get the end of life care that is right for them.”
Imelda Redmond, Marie Curie director of policy and public affairs, added: “We need to pick up the pace of change… We’re about to see the sharpest rise in the number of people dying, with annual deaths set to increase by 17% by 2030 to almost 590,000 deaths per year.
“Currently, our research shows that 63% want to be cared for and die at home, yet only 44%, including those in care homes, do. This is because not enough, of the right type of health and social care, is available.”
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Good end of life care is all about patient choice, and making sure patients are informed of all of the options available to them.
“This is where nursing staff can play such an important role in having these sensitive discussions with patients and their families.”
He added: “Care homes must ensure that all of their staff, including nurses and health care support workers, are well trained in this vital aspect of end of life care.
“At such a distressing time it is more important than ever that patients and their relatives feel comfortable that they can make informed decisions about the care they receive.”
- What We Know Now 2013 - New information collated by the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network
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