Responding to today's report by Dr Foster on palliative care coding in the NHS, which found a rise in the number of people coded as needing palliative care, Heather Richardson, National Clinical Lead at Help the Hospices, said:
"Public confidence in the care that people receive at the end of life in hospital has taken a considerable knock in recent months.
"This new research identifies what appears to be inconsistency in the way in which hospitals code the care that people receive at the end of life.
"There is a strong likelihood that palliative deaths in hospitals have historically been under-reported - as highlighted by recent research from Glasgow University which found that almost one in three people in hospital are actually within their last year of life. As hospitals become better at identifying palliative care patients and addressing their needs, we would expect to see a rise in the numbers coded as palliative care patients.
"However, there appears to be great variation and inconsistency in palliative care coding between hospitals, and this must be addressed. The Government is committed to introducing a new funding system for palliative care by 2015 which will include a new mechanism for coding palliative care provided in different settings. This research underlines the importance of that work.
"People have a right to expect to receive the best possible end of life care in hospitals. Improving data and intelligence about palliative care in hospitals is an essential step in rebuilding public confidence."