Cancer patients denied their last wish to die at home

Posted: 20th Nov 13 1:33 PM

Macmillan Cancer Support have called on the government to make social care free for everyone at the end of life.  Macmillan have undertaken a national survey of bereaved relatives and carers which has revealed almost ¾ of terminally ill cancer patients wanted to die at home.  It is estimated that 36,000 people who die each year in hospital would prefer to be at home at the end of their life.

The survey revealed that care in hospital was regarded as below the standard of the care received at home.  Of those who died at home 63% rated the quality of care as excellent or outstanding, compared to only 30% of those who died in hospital.  It was also reported that over 40% of people with terminal cancer were not always treated with dignity and respect by hospital doctors during their last hospital admission.

In 2011 the Palliative Care Funding review recommended that social care should be free for those at the end of life.  However, it is clear from this survey that thousands of cancer patients are still spending their last days in a hospital ward.

Macmillan Cancer Support have launched a new report, called the Time to Choose, which sets out recommendations for improving choice at the end of life for cancer patients.  The Macmillan report also calls on the government to make social care free for everyone in the last weeks of life.

Ciarán Devane Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support has stated:

“As the government makes up its mind about whether to fund 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 accident and emergency 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 is 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”.

The National Asbestos Helpline supports Macmillan Cancer Support in their quest to get the government to provide social care so that people can choose to die at home if that is their wish.  This is an extremely important issue and is one about patients’ choice, human dignity and reducing the burden on the NHS.

Copies of the report the Time to Choose can be obtained from the Macmillan Cancer Support website.