Cookies on the ehospice website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. We also use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the ehospice website. However, if you would like to, you can change your cookie settings at any time.

Macmillan calls on government to do more to prevent pain at the end of life

Author: Tom Moran
15 February 2016

New research, published by Macmillan Cancer Support on Saturday, found that one in 10 people who died with cancer in England in 2014 spent the last 48 hours of their lives without sufficient pain relief.

Macmillan estimates that, if these figures are correct, around 12,500 people across England might be spending the end of their lives in pain. The findings come from an analysis of the National Survey of Bereaved People 2014 (VOICES).

The charity is using the data to back its call for the government to address the variation in the quality of end of life care in England.

"Quite simply, in the 21st century people should not be spending their final hours in pain in this country because the support is not there," said Macmillan chief executive, Lynda Thomas. "It is tragic for the individual and distressing for family and friends who witness their loved one in pain."

She urged the government to take heed of the review of choice at the end of life, which was published last year: "The government must fund and implement the recommendations of the review; we cannot carry on with the way things are."

New analysis by Macmillan has also found that people with cancer who receive insufficient pain relief at home are more likely to die somewhere they do not want to be, compared to those who receive full pain relief.

A Macmillan survey of 1,019 adults living with cancer in the UK from February 2010 revealed that 73% would prefer to die at home, but figures from the Office for National Statistics show that this happened in less than a third (30%) of deaths recorded in England and Wales in 2014.

Thomas added: "The last days of someone’s life are precious and it is completely unacceptable that people lose the little control they have at this important time, simply because they are not being cared for in the way that they should.

"In many cases, family and friends are being given an unfair ultimatum: keep your loved ones at home, where they want to be, without the resources to make them comfortable, or take them to hospital against their wishes, where their pain will at least be kept under control. No one should have their last memories of a loved one defined by these sorts of impossible choices."

Representatives from two other national end of life care charities backed Macmillan’s call to the government to do more.

"It is distressing that such a high number of people with cancer are spending their final moments in pain, simply because the right support is not available," said Jonathan Ellis, director of policy and advocacy at Hospice UK.

"We know that home is the place where most people want to die, however too many are deprived of this choice and forced to spend their last days in hospital. Hospices are working with hospitals and other care providers to ensure more people at the end of life are cared for where they prefer.

"A year ago, an independent review of choice at the end of life laid recommendations on how to improve choice and quality of care for people at the end of life. The government is dragging its feet on this issue. We urge it to take decisive action and implement the review’s recommendations without further delay."

His sentiments were echoed by Dee Sissons, director of nursing at Marie Curie.

"Seeing a loved one dying in pain is a distressing experience and can have lasting effects on family and friends," she said.

"Lack of anticipatory prescribing – which ensures medicines are readily available, and little support out of hours, are issues that need tackling. It is also essential that staff have the right training around medicine management.  It is possible for pain to be managed at home when people have the right support in place.

"Urgent improvements to the availability of high-quality community care and 24/7 palliative care are needed to ensure people can die at home in comfort and with dignity."

See more articles in Policy

Comments | 0 comments

There are currently no comments. To be the first to make a comment...

Add comment

Denotes required field

Your Name



Top Jobs

Recommended Events