Marie Curie welcomes spotlight on the difficulties facing people dying with terminal cancer

by Phil McCarvil Head of Policy and Public Affairs, England Phil McCarvil, Head of Policy & Public Affairs, England

Figures released today by Macmillan Cancer Support , based on the Office for National Statistic’s 2013 National Survey of Bereaved People (VOICES) in England, show that people with terminal cancer who don’t receive any kind of health or social care at home in their last few months of life are more than twice as likely to die in hospital than at home.
This unacceptable situation is sadly not just limited to those dying from terminal cancer. We know that most terminally ill people, with any condition, do not want to die in hospital but more than half the deaths in England and Wales take place there. No one who is terminally ill should remain stuck in hospital simply because of a lack of co-ordination between hospitals and the community or because their local health and social care teams can’t agree who pays for what.  Delays in putting the right support in place, can deny people the opportunity to be cared for and die in their own home or care home, which is not acceptable. Identifying terminally ill people in a busy hospital is a difficult task, but not impossible. With the right services in place, people who do not want or need to be in hospital can be discharged safely back into the community, in a timely way.  Repeated emergency admissions can also be avoided with the right care in place. We know from research conducted by the Nuffield Trust that terminally ill people who are cared for by Marie Curie Nurses are more likely to die at home, and less likely to experience emergency admissions and lengthy hospital stays, which can be distressing for everyone concerned. Significantly, our own analysis of the VOICES data showed that the bereaved relatives who we cared for were more likely to say that they had enough choice about where their loved one died, and that they were more likely to die at home, compared with those who did not receive Marie Curie help.  They also rated the quality of care, including better pain relief control, higher. We must ensure that all terminally ill people get the individual care and support they want and need –  there is only one chance to get it right.