Terminally ill people and their families are being left “scared, alone and desperate for help” because most areas in England do not provide round-the-clock care for those dying at home, a charity has claimed.
Research by the Sue Ryder hospice and neurological care charity found 92% of areas in England do not have 24-hour provision, including out-of-hours telephone lines to expert nurses for carers and patients.
“People who are dying, their carers and their families should be able to access the care they want, when they want”
Only half of those people who would choose to die at home are able to do so because of the shortage of overnight help, the charity said.
Launching its Dying Doesn’t Work 9 to 5 campaign, chief executive Heidi Travis said the current situation is unacceptable.
“We at Sue Ryder firmly believe that people who are dying, their carers and their families should be able to access the care they want, when they want,” she said.
“Unfortunately many areas of the country simply don’t have the services in place to make this ambition a reality,” she added.
“Yet services like our local Partnership for Excellence in Palliative Support (PEPS), which is built around giving patients a single point of contact to help ensure a co-ordinated service, has proven that this is possible to achieve,” said Ms Travis.
A survey of 2,000 adults in England by Populus for the charity found 82% of people expect support and advice to be available round-the-clock, but three-quarters admitted their biggest fear about death is that relatives will have to look after them without outside support.
The charity, which said the situation will only get worse as strains on the health service increase, has launched a petition to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to make 24/7 support available for those who are dying.
The charity’s questioning of clinical commissioning groups in England showed that just a few areas, including Bedfordshire, Luton and Wigan, provide comprehensive care for those in need.
Bee Wee, NHS England’s national clinical director for end of life care, told the BBC: “Over the past year we have been working hard to make changes and move towards a palliative care service that gives everyone a choice about how and where they spend their final days.
“It is really important that dying people, and those close to them, have access to care, support and advice whenever they need it, so we support this as an important issue to address,” she said.