Report Shows a Growing Number of People are Dying without Dignity

Wednesday 20th May 2015

In light of a disturbing report that reveals the damage caused by poor end of life care, a former health minister and leading charities have said that dying patients should be given the right to spend their final days at home.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s report provides details of various unpleasant cases the watchdog has examined over the last four years.

The report has brought forward calls for the Government to initiate complimentary end of life social care for patients at home. This would spare terminally ill patients from spending their last days in a hospital, frequently with no specialist palliative care support.

At present, families who seek complimentary care for a terminally ill relative face an intricate means-testing process. Recently, results from a survey showed that 68.8% of participants would be happier to end their life in their home. Despite this, Britain is still among Europe’s highest hospital death rates among older citizens.

It is generally established that once it is clear a patient is dying, a hospital ward is hardly ever the most appropriate place for them. Even so, more than 50% of UK deaths still take place in a hospital.

The ombudsman’s report relates to care within NHS England. It details anonymous cases such as that of a 29 year old man suffering from cancer. For 11 hours following his hospital admission, he was left without pain relief.

The report also outlines the case of a 74 year old man who spent his final hours suffering in pain as doctors had failed to take advice from specialist palliative care nurses.

Another case documents the case of a 55 year old cancer patient’s brother, who was unable to bid goodbye to his sister due to hospital staff administering a dose of sedatives instead of pain relief by mistake.

In a report in March, MPs on the Health Select Committee recommended a guarantee of free social care for patients at the end of their life.

In response to the ombudsman’s report, cancer charity Macmillan pressed for the Government to give careful thought to the reformation of social care to enable everyone the guarantee of free end of life support.

The charity’s chief executive, Lynda Thomas said this will enable people to have their dying wish to remain at home granted. She highlighted that it would also reduce unnecessary and expensive emergency hospital admissions.

It is understood that the Government is considering a number of possibilities to make sure terminally ill patients get the necessary social care support.