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Dying at home not possible for many

Hundreds of thousands of people are denied their dying wish to spend their last moments at home due to inadequacies in the healthcare system, a report has claimed.

A study from the Commons Public Accounts Committee found that patients suffering from devastating conditions such as cancer cannot always die at home surrounded by friends and family because they are hindered by the NHS and social care system.

The committee said that "generally poor" co-ordination between health and social care services in relation to end-of-life care meant there was sometimes little choice, despite there often being no clinical need for them to be in hospital.

It said that care homes sometimes send patients to hospital or refuse to take residents back after a hospital stay because they feel ill-equipped to care for dying people.

Figures show that around half a million people in England die each year, with three quarters dying after time spent with a chronic illness such as cancer or heart disease.

In 2006, only 35% of people died at home or in a care home, while around 60% of deaths occurred in an acute hospital.

The report said: "Most people express a preference to die at home but 60% die in an acute hospital, even when there is no clinical need for them to be there.

"People should have the right to die in the place of their choice."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Commons Public Accounts Committee