Macmillan report finds thousands unable to die at home

28 October 2013
Findings show 36,000 cancer patients died in hospital against their wishes to spend last days of life at home.

Macmillan Cancer Support have today published a new report, ‘Time to Choose’, which highlights the fact that almost three quarters of cancer patients in England who die in hospital beds wanted to die at home, roughly 36,000 each year.

It also notes that professionals caring for the dying often fail to afford them the dignity and respect that they deserve.

The report sets out new recommendations for improving choice at end of life for cancer patients. It 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, said:

"As the Government makes up its mind about whether to fund and implement free 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 A&E 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’s 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."

NCPC welcomes the report and continues to support the call for free social care for all at the end of life, and stresses the importance of dignity and respect for patients, families and carers.

Speaking today in response to the report Simon Chapman, Director of Public and Parliamentary Engagement at the National Council for Palliative Care, said:

“Medical technology has enabled us to postpone death not cancel it altogether, and the number of people who die each year are now starting to rise. It’s very welcome news that last year, for the first time in many years, less than half of those who died did so in hospital. We have reversed a historic trend and this is a considerable landmark on a longer journey. But the reality is that most people’s wishes are still not being met, with only 22% of people dying at home, even though that’s where most of us would like to be.

It is essential that we apply the same ingenuity and innovation that has enabled us to prolong people’s lives to ensuring that everybody approaching the end of life has all the care and support they need round the clock so they can live and die in the place they want to be. This report by Macmillan is a very helpful contribution to the wider public debate that we need to have about how we can make that happen.”

You can read Macmillan Cancer Support's press release and obtain copies of the 'Time to Choose' report here.

Notes to editors:

  1. The National Council for Palliative Care is the umbrella charity for all those involved in palliative, end of life and hospice care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It also leads the Dying Matters Coalition ( which aims to help transform public attitudes towards dying, death and bereavement in England.
  2. For all media enquiries please contact Joe Levenson, Director of Communications at the National Council for Palliative Care on 07795 158003.


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