Cancer deaths ‘put strain on NHS’

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Published: Friday 30th January 2015 by The News Editor

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The number of terminal cancer patients who are forced to die in hospital rather than at home is placing an “unnecessary strain” on the NHS, a charity has warned.

Macmillan Cancer Support has called on political parties to commit to including free end-of-life social care for patients in England in their general election manifestos.

It comes after the charity studied data from the Office for National Statistics which showed one in seven terminal cancer patients (17%) in England did not receive any professional care at home.

Three quarters (75%) of patients who were not provided with care services at home died in hospital, while just 7% died in their own household, Macmillan said.

This is compared to 44% of p atients who were able to spend their final days in their own property after receiving professional care at home, and 29% who died in hospital.

Previous research by the charity found that three in four people living with cancer would prefer to die at home but only 30% were able to do so.

Meanwhile, a report by Macmillan last year estimated that £137 million was spent in 2012 delivering hospital care to 36,400 cancer patients who died in hospital but had wanted to spend their final days at home.

Macmillan has warned that the situation is placing “unnecessary strain on an under-pressure NHS”.

The charity’s chief executive, Lynda Thomas, said: “We are confronted here with a bleak picture of people with cancer who can’t die at home when they want to. The analysis suggests that because many people don’t have social care at home, they ultimately don’t get to choose where they die.

“This lack of support for people with cancer can create an intolerable stress on family and friends at what is already a distressing time. And this too often results in dying people ending up in hospital against their wishes.

“Having help at home, even with tasks such as washing and getting dressed, could make a vital difference.

“Macmillan Cancer Support is calling on all political parties to include free social care for people at the end of life in their general election manifestos.”

Colette Jelfs, 35, from Rugby, whose husband Andy died of adrenal cancer in 2012, said: “In the April, Andy was diagnosed and treatment began, but by July he was admitted to hospital and he was terminal. They told him he could stay in hospital to die, move to a hospice miles away, or come home.

“Andy wanted to be at home with me and the children, but we’d had no support from carers up to then and I just didn’t see how I would cope emotionally or physically. No one was explaining how they’d make it possible. He died four days later in hospital.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We want to make sure that people nearing the end of their lives can choose where to spend their last days and have more of a say on how they are cared for. We are currently reviewing how to improve the quality and experience of care at the end of life and the system for funding it.”

Published: Friday 30th January 2015 by The News Editor

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