Social care may prevent the need for hospital admission at the end of life, research suggests.
A major study commissioned by the National End of Life care Intelligence Network tracking how 73,000 people use publicly funded health and social care services.
The report Understanding patterns of health and social care at the end of life published by the Nuffield Health showed “considerable variation” in the use of social care between local authorities and between groups of individuals with certain long-term conditions: people with dementia, falls and stroke tended to use most social care services, while people with cancer used less.
It was also found individuals with the highest social care costs had relatively low average hospital costs irrespective of age, leading researchers to claim the use of social care may prevent the need for hospital care.
They argue this finding may become “increasingly important” if local authorities continue to restrict funding of care services to those people with the most critical needs only.
Researchers described the costs of social care for people at the end of life as “reasonably predictable”, and claimed the economic risk to the government of funding social care at the end of life – currently means-tested – “would not be great”.
“We know that 71% of people would prefer to die at home,” said Claire Henry, Director of the National End of Life Care Programme.
“This report highlights the need for closer integration between health and social care to make that happen. It provides crucial information to enable more to be done in terms of service provision so that more people can live and die well in their preferred place.
"In the current economic climate, intelligence about where to best direct resources is invaluable. We need to work effectively and collaboratively to deliver person-centred end of life care that meets the needs of each and every individual.”
In response to the report, Macmillan Cancer Support has called for free social care at the end of life as the report provides “compelling evidence” that it is achievable.
“Unless the Government implements this urgently, thousands of cancer patients will continue to end up dying in hospital wards unnecessarily,” said Mike Hobday, Director of Policy and Research at Macmillan Cancer Support.