Help the Hospices calls on the Government to back innovative new scheme to tackle crisis in care for dying people

Jul 23, 2014

Help the Hospices today calls on the Government to transform care for dying people by backing a ground-breaking programme aimed at reducing the number of people dying unnecessarily in hospital by providing alternative care.

The national hospice charity is launching a major programme which aims to cut the number of people dying in hospital by 50,000 each year – around a fifth of the total annual hospital deaths in the UK. Help the Hospices believes this will lead to higher quality, better targeted care for dying people and could generate savings of up to £80m per year for the NHS.

The new initiative will offer people increased choice about where they die, in line with their personal preferences. Hospices provide and support a range of alternative care options for dying people, including supporting more people to die at home.

At present just over 500,000 people die in England and Wales each year, with around half of them dying in hospital. Often, people who die in a hospital setting have no clinical need or wish to be there and the number of people dying each year is beginning to rise. Research shows that more than 80 per cent of the public would prefer to die at home or in a hospice.

In addition, there is evidence that a significant number of dying people receive poor quality care in hospital for a range of reasons; including a lack of relevant skills and awareness among doctors and other healthcare professionals about palliative care.

Help the Hospices new programme will be aimed at dying people who often fall through gaps in the care system and remain in hospital at the end of life because alternative options, such as hospice care, have not even been considered.

Announcing the new programme, Lord Howard, Chair of Help the Hospices, said:

“Hospital has become the default option for dying people and for an increasing number of frail elderly people. Hospital should be the last resort at the end of life, not the first one.

“This has resulted in inappropriate and often poor quality care that completely fails to support dying people’s actual needs and deprives them of alternative care options. It also places considerable pressure on the NHS, which is already straining at the seams.

“Hospices can provide the solution by leading moves to provide and facilitate alternative forms of care, whether through their own inpatient units or working closely with their local hospital to deliver alternative options. This will help ensure that people do not have to remain in a hospital bed at their end of life unnecessarily. It will result in better targeted, higher quality care for dying people, as well as being cost-effective for the NHS.

“Supporting the needs of dying people needs to become a much bigger priority, especially as our population grows older, with more people with complex health needs in the coming years.”

Dr Ros Taylor, Director of the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire and also a Trustee of Help the Hospices, said:

“Hospices have a strong track record of providing excellent end of life care. They are the best placed organisations to spearhead a bold new approach to help improve the quality of care for dying people in the wider health care system.

“Hospices are already successfully delivering alternative models of care and also working with other organisations in their local communities to better co-ordinate care for dying people. However, this needs to be radically scaled up if our society is to address the crisis of care facing dying people and enable them to access the support they desperately need and deserve.”

Help the Hospices is offering a partnership between the NHS and the hospice movement to fund six nationally co-ordinated pilot projects to evaluate the impact of hospice led interventions in reducing unnecessary deaths in hospital that would begin in April 2015. Following completion of the pilots, the programme would then be rolled out nationally from April 2017.

Hospices around the UK are helping to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and promote patient choice through a range of initiatives. They include: assisting with rapid discharge for people who no longer need to be in hospital and wish to die elsewhere (such as a hospice or their own home), providing alternative inpatient care to hospitals and also offering home-based care.

Notes to Editor

  • Lord Howard of Lympne will launch the new programme to reduce unnecessary hospital deaths at a press conference held at 9.30am on Wednesday July 23 2014 at Church House, Dean’s Yard, Westminster. SW1P 3NZ. (9am- Breakfast and registration. Announcement by Lord Howard, followed by Q&A at 9.30am.)
  • Research shows that for many people who are dying, hospital is their least preferred place of care (Gomes et al 2011). More than 80% of the public would prefer to die at home or in a hospice.
  • Only 21% of hospital sites have access to face-to-face palliative care services seven days a week. (National Care of the Dying Audit 2014.)
  • Help the Hospices is the UK’s leading charity for hospice care which supports and champions the work of more than 200 hospices across the country.
  • Hospices provide vital care for people with terminal illnesses and life-limiting conditions and also support their families and carers.
  • Get all the latest news from the hospice and palliative care sector, as well as patient stories, on ehospice UK at www.ehospice.com/uk  

Media enquiries

Please contact Suzanne Stevenson on 020 7520 8296 or by email at s.stevenson@hospiceuk.org or, contact Stephen Clark at s.clark@hospiceuk.org or on 020 7520 8224.

For out of hours media enquiries please call 07881 940 318.

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