Around 80% of hospice care for adults is provided in a range of community settings, with less than a fifth delivered in hospice inpatient units, according to new data analysis.
The findings, published today, provide the first ever snapshot of hospice care across the UK. It shows that the majority of clinical care for adults is delivered in different community-based settings including people’s homes, day hospice and hospice outpatient services.
“Our research provides a valuable snapshot of hospice care in the UK”
Charitable hospices made nearly a million visits to people with terminal and life-shortening conditions supported in community settings, including their homes, last year.
The research was carried out by the charity Hospice UK. It comes amid increasing calls from policy-makers for more integrated community-based support and new models of care.
Hospice UK’s research highlighted that people with a cancer diagnosis constitute 79% of those supported in community-based and in-patient hospice care in the UK.
It also showed that people with other conditions tended to be referred to hospice care at a later stage and in fewer numbers than those with cancer, although the number of referrals for people with non-cancer conditions was gradually increasing.
The charity emphasised the need for more data about the experiences of patients who used hospice care and how hospices supported carers and those in other settings, such as care homes and hospitals, to improve end of life care.
“There are still people not receiving the end of life care that they and their families need”
An estimated 100,000 people in the UK who need expert end of life care will not get the right support, according to Hospice UK’s report.
Improving data quality about who uses hospice care will help expand the provision of hospice care to everyone who needs it, especially people from hard-to-reach groups, said the charity.
Other key findings from the research include that an estimated 200,000 people received support from charitable hospices last year – representing 40% of those who need expert end of life care.
In addition, 32% of those admitted to a hospice in-patient unit stayed there for a brief period before returning home, which the charity said highlighted that hospice care supported people through “all stages of their condition, as well as at the end of life”.
Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of Hospice UK, said: “Our research provides a valuable snapshot of hospice care in the UK, especially in highlighting the high level of community-based support provided by hospices.
“This strong community-centred aspect of hospice care presents opportunities for hospices and the NHS to work together in a more integrated way to help deliver a seamless experience of care for more people with terminal and life-shortening conditions,” she said.
“This research marks a good starting point,” she said. “However, we know we need to do more to understand the reach of hospice care and its contribution to the wider care system, especially if we are to tackle persistent inequalities in end of life care.”
Claire Henry, chief executive of the National Council for Palliative Care, said “We celebrate the amazing work of hospices, their staff and volunteers.
“But we are concerned from the finding in the report that there are still people not receiving the end of life care that they and their families need, and also that people with a non-cancer diagnosis are less likely to receive a timely referral to hospice care,” said Ms Henry.
“With dementia now the leading cause of death in England and Wales, both the need and the challenges for palliative care will grow in the future,” she said. “We know some hospices are already extending their services, and we need to see more of this and learn from these new ventures.”