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End of life care “heading for a meltdown”, warns cancer charity

A cancer charity has warned that 65,000 cancer patients face poor care in their last three months of life over the next five years unless there is a boost in funding for end of life care.

Macmillan Cancer Support called on the government to invest in services including out of hours community services to spare people dying from cancer further distress and pain.

Chief executive Lynda Thomas said: “If nothing is done and the country's deeply imperfect arrangements continue, then end of life care is heading for a meltdown.”

The charity estimated that nearly 144,000 people in England are expected to die from cancer annually by 2020, an increase of 15,000 annually compared to 2010.

The charity said there was an “urgent need to tackle the country's deeply imperfect approach to end of life care.”

The comments follow this year's report On the brink: the future of the end of life care by the End of Life Coalition which includes Macmillan.

The authors called for integrated care and high quality funded care in and out of hospital and investment in palliative care specialists.

It pointed out that dying in hospital costs £4,500, and £100 million could have been saved if people who died in hospital in 2014 had access to community care instead.

Macmillan said that many patients lack adequate pain relief, are not involved in decisions about their care and are unable to die at home because of lack of support.

Despite nearly three quarters of people wanting to end their days at home, the reality is that just 30% do die at home.

Thomas said: “It is shocking to think that one person will die of cancer every four minutes, but worse still that many people dying of cancer may not get the care they need, and that their final wishes remain unfulfilled.”

She added: “It is unacceptable for a person dying of cancer to have to go to hospital when they don't want to be there, because care and support wasn't available at home.”

She said government investment was vital.