The quality of end-of-life care for the terminally ill depends on “arbitrary” factors such as disease, age and geographical location, according to a new report.
More support and training should be provided to GPs and other health professionals to help them talk about death and dying with patients and their families, research published by think-tank Demos has said.
The report, Ways and Means, supported by the charity Sue Ryder, said people dying from cancer receive earlier and better diagnosis, better follow-up support and dedicated help to ensure their wishes are carried out.
It said a series of other factors also affected the care received by patients at the end of their lives including their ethnicity and differences in availability of equipment.
People with dementia are at far greater risk of being hospitalised before death or dying in hospital instead of at home, as a lack of support in the community leaves carers unable to cope, the report said.
Helping more people die in a manner of their choosing would not only ease the pain for the patient and their family but also reduce the number of emergency hospital admissions, it said.
Claudia Wood, deputy director of Demos and co-author of the report, said: “These widespread and unacceptable inequalities show how accessing good quality end-of-life care is often hit or miss.
“But this is a lottery we can’t allow to continue.
“A person’s condition, location or ethnicity should not prevent them from having a say in the care they receive at the end of life.”
Paul Woodward, Chief Executive at Sue Ryder said: “We believe that everyone should have access to the personalised and compassionate care that they want. It is a fundamental right for everybody to have choice and control over their care and to have a good death: pain-free, in dignity and in their preferred choice of location.
“Death and the memories it leaves behind, particularly of a loved one’s last days, affects us all, which is why the inequalities revealed in this report represent a ‘wake up’ call that cannot be ignored.”