National Bereavement Survey (VOICES) published

11 July 2013
The second National Bereavement Survey, where bereaved people are asked about end of life care in the last three months of life, has been published today by the Office for National Statistics.
Among its key findings the survey discovered that overall quality of care across all services in the last three months of life was rated by 44% of respondents as outstanding or excellent. It also found that staff in hospices were more likely to show dignity and respect than those in hospitals. The survey reinforces the idea that most people wish to die at home, although in practice only 50% achieve this.

Commenting on the findings, Simon Chapman, Director of Public and Parliamentary Engagement at the National Council for Palliative Care said:

“We welcome the publication of this important report, which provides a vital insight into bereaved people’s experiences of the quality of end of life care.

Although there are some encouraging findings, this is just the latest in a long line of reports which highlight unacceptable inconsistencies in end of life care, with hospitals once again performing especially badly. It’s five years from the Government’s End of Life Care Strategy and despite welcome progress, inadequate end of life care is still being tolerated in some places.

There’s clearly something going very wrong in too many hospitals when it comes to the basic treatment of people who are dying, with 59% of bereaved people reporting that hospital doctors always showed dignity and respect and 52% saying this was the case for hospital nurses.  It’s also concerning to see it reported that of people who were able to die at home – the place that most of us would like to die – less than one in five had their pain managed completely all the time (compared with 63% in hospices), with many people in hospital also going without appropriate pain relief.

The findings from this survey must be the final wake up call for all those involved in end of life care. There needs to be mandatory end of life care training for all health and care staff and more must be done to make excellent end of life care the norm for everyone, wherever they choose to be cared for. With today's call for an open public debate on the NHS we need to be clear that unless people who want to die at home can get pain and symptom control round the clock we will just get more dying people being sent into hospital as an emergency, which is very distressing and the last thing anybody wants.”

You can download the full report from the Office of National Statistics website here.

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