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Postcode lottery in end-of-life care

7 December 2010

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An independent review has claimed that the NHS has not taken responsibility for providing good end-of-life care in England.

This has created a “postcode lottery” in funding and service quality, according to the head of Marie Curie Cancer Care, who carried out the report.

Tom Hughes Hallett’s study says the NHS must offer key services, including round-the-clock community care.

The paper focuses on how the NHS can help ensure a good death and highlights some organisations that are carrying out “excellent” work, but it adds that funding and services have developed on an ad hoc basis.

It cites a Department of Health survey from 2008 which revealed that palliative care expenditure across primary care trusts ranged from £154 to £1,684 per death – a variation which the report says has resulted in damaging consequences.

“The ‘postcode lottery’ within palliative care means that patients with the same diagnosis in different geographical locations can expect very different levels of service”, it states.

The review adds that while the majority of people say they would like to be cared for and die in their own home or care home, the proportion who achieve this is “very small”.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “We need to ensure that the care people receive at the end of life is compassionate, appropriate and gives people choices in where they die and how they are cared for.

“I am pleased to see that the review is making good progress and I look forward to receiving the final report next summer.”

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Marie Curie Cancer Care