Dr Jane Collins presentation at the Gold Standards Framework conference

by Jade Holland
Senior Marketing Executive, Caring Services and Research

On Wednesday November 28 the Gold Standards Framework conference ‘Living Well Until You Die’ took place in Central London.

Attended by more than 100 delegates working across the healthcare sector from commissioners to care home managers there was one clear and common interest – improving end of life care amongst an ageing population.

By 2030 the number of people aged over 85 is likely to double.  Current projections suggest that by the same time there will be nearly 590,000 deaths per year – an increase of 17%, with the annual rate continuing to increase up to 2050. In the context of an ageing population, changing healthcare structures and limited resources, speakers and delegates covered how we can make the best of the years ahead – ensuring people live and die well.

Marie Curie CEO Dr Jane Collins presented ‘Helping people to live well and die well at home’, looking at patient and carer preferences and priorities at the end of life and a discussion around home versus hospital as a place to die.

Dr Collins used a range of research to illustrate patient preferences. A YouGov poll for Marie Curie in 2008 showed 63% of people would prefer to die at home. But the percentage varies across studies depending on who you ask.  Generally, people who are not currently dying of a terminal illness choose home as their preferred place of death.  However, those over 65 are less likely, with 49% wanting to die at home (Higginson, 2003). Although there is percentage variance depending on the audience you ask, dying at home is consistently the preferred place to die followed by hospice, care home and hospital.

Whichever study you cite, there is wide agreement that hospitals are the place people least want to die. Yet this is the place where most people do – 55% according to the latest ONS figures, a stark comparison to the 1% of people that said hospital was their preferred place of death according to the Electronic Palliative Care Coordination System in North Somerset.

In the end Dr Collins made it clear that patient choice is paramount.  Quality, she said, must be in place to ensure improved end of life care.