Help the Hospices chairman: Hospital death a 'last resort'

23 July 2014
National Council for Palliative Care and Dying Matters chief executive Claire Henry is welcoming the launch of a ground-breaking Help the Hospices scheme to give more people the choice to die in hospices or at home.

The proposed scheme aims to cut the number of terminally ill people dying annually in hospital by a fifth. Speaking today, Lord Howard, chairman of Help the Hospices, said hospitals are increasingly becoming the "default" place of death at the cost of patients' dignity. Hospitals, he said, should be considered a "last resort". 

Help the Hospices believes the initiative could save the NHS £80 million a year. It is seeking £500,000 in government funding for six pilots in which hospices partner hospitals to try to help terminally ill patients who want to leave wards to die at home or in a hospice. Similar schemes are already operating in some areas, but Help the Hospices says attempts to expand them have been hindered by lack of funding. It is hoped the pilot schemes will help establish an evidence-base for such schemes to reduce the numbers dying in hospital.

Claire Henry, Chief Executive of the National Council for Palliative Care, the lead charity for Dying Matters, commented: “We welcome this new initiative by Help the Hospices and share their concerns about the importance of tackling the challenges in care for dying people. Despite some progress, far too many people are still not getting the end of life care and support that is right for them.  We only have one chance to get it right for people who are dying, which is why there needs to be a much greater focus on meeting people’s end of life wishes, including by supporting more people to be cared for and die in the community rather than in hospital which for many people isn’t where they want to be."

Claire is currently leading an independent review of choice at the end of life, which will report in February 2015. According to the National Bereavement Survey, around half of the 500,000 people who die each year do so in hospital - despite 80% saying they would prefer to die elsewhere.

Speaking to The Telegraph ahead of today's launch, Lord Howard described the care his father, who died at home of breast cancer aged 49, received. He said: "Before he died he was looked after by an extraordinarily dedicated group of nuns, and the devotion and care which they lavished on him as always stayed with me. The word I would use is gentleness. Gentle, loving care."

Lord Howard added that he would like to end his life in the "familiar surroundings" of his home.

He said: "I know that when the moment comes I would prefer to be at home in familiar surroundings, hopefully surrounded by my family, than die in a ward with a lot of other people around and a lot of nurses preoccupied with other things.


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Claire Henry to chair review into end of life care choice


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