MPs study on end of life care
UK MPs call for end of life care and support to improveReuters

Social care at the end of life should be made free of charge, according to a study by UK MPs.

A report by the Health Select Committee found that care for people at the end of their lives varies considerably in the UK, with calls for long-term hospice funding.

"There are unacceptable levels of variation in the care that people receive and this needs to be addressed so that high-quality end-of-life care is available to everyone regardless of their age, medical condition or where they live," says report author Dr Sarah Wollaston MP.

"We must make sure that specialist palliative care expertise is accessible within hospitals and community settings as well as within our hospices."

Dr Ros Taylor, national director of Hospice UK, said that some patients still get lost within the NHS system.

"There isn't the confidence of nurses and young doctors in hospital to have those conversations to recognise that somebody might be towards the end of their life, so the planning doesn't happen and people die waiting to leave hospital," she told Sky News.

Care minister Norman Lamb said the government was looking into a policy of free end-of-life social care.

The report recommended that one senior person in each NHS Trust had responsibility for monitoring how end-of-life care is delivered.

All staff should also be given relevant training on care planning, and bereavement support should be offered to families. Staff had said they lacked the confidence and training to talk about end-of-life issues with patients.

Around half a million people die each year in England and Wales. Approximately 53% of deaths occur in NHS hospitals, with around 21% occurring at home, 18% in care homes, 5% in hospices and 3% elsewhere, according to the BBC.

Two-thirds of people say they would prefer to die at home and 29% say they would prefer to die in a hospice.

End-of-life care is defined as people expected to die within 12 months, most with incurable or progressive illnesses.

Dr Jane Collins, chief executive of charity Marie Curie, agreed that changes were necessary.

"The majority of people say they do not get the care and support they need and still around half of people in the UK die in hospital despite this being the more expensive option and the place where most people say they would not want to die."