Hospices: The forgotten pillar of elderly care?

Geriatric A quarter of people who die each year get help from hospices

Elderly care is one of the most pressing issues in the NHS.

Whether it is the quality of hospital care or the affordability of care homes, ministers are busy trying to improve services.

But we have heard very little about hospices.

Yet, about a fifth of people - 120,000 a year - get help from them before they die.

And compared to hospitals and care homes, they are doing much better at making their final days, weeks and months comfortable.

According to the official bereaved families survey produced by the Office for National Statistics, over 80% of people feel hospices treat patients with dignity and respect compared to just over half in hospitals. A similar picture emerges with the administering of pain relief.

But is there more that hospices could do?

The sector certainly thinks so. It has set up the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care to put forward its case.

In a report published this week it says hospices could be playing more of a role - and in turn relieving the pressure on hospitals and A&E units in particular.

But to realise the potential the commission wants both hospices themselves and the NHS to raise their game.

'New revolution'

Hospices, it says, need to innovate.

For example, many of the most forward-thinking have started providing much more care in people's homes. Some will have ten times as many people on their books in the community as they will have in their actual hospice building.

But to transform themselves they need help.

The network of 200-plus hospices in the UK, which receive about a third of their funding from the NHS and two thirds from charitable donations, has largely developed around caring for cancer patients.

It means many are not properly equipped to care for the complexities of dementia and multiple illnesses that many of the elderly have these days.

To combat this, the commission says it needs the NHS to help with training staff.

But it also wants GPs and ambulance crews to engage more with hospices by sending more patients to them instead of hospital when appropriate.

Prof Dame Barbara Monroe, vice chair of the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care, believes such measures could have a significant impact.

"Modern hospices grew out of a response to appalling deficits in care for people facing the end of life," she says.

"Now nearly 50 years on, there are still too many shameful lapses which have dented public confidence in the care system.

"Hospices have a unique opportunity to once again lead a new revolution to help transform care."

Nick Triggle Article written by Nick Triggle Nick Triggle Health correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    This sounds like care on the cheap again.
    Given hospices need charity to top up the minimal income from the state. Which is shocking in itself.

    Government now expects these hospice workers to go out and look after the general elderly population without extra funding and without affecting the care of those in the hospice.

    Money for Polititians pay rises, none for overstretched health services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Has anyone ever considered a system for the elderly similar to fostering for children in which an individual or family are paid and supported to care for an elderly person in their own home?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Hospices will mutate into death pathways if you are not careful. There is already a rampant almost 'nazi-style' ageism and survival of the fittest eugenics type mentality amongst health professionals today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    At least the very old are supposed to die in a hospice unlike some of our Hospitals where they are supposed to be there to improve. .

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Hospices are not care homes. They are places caring for those of any age at the end of their lives. These should not be dumping grounds for people who have a longer time to live. Hospices offer a different type of care for those at the very end of their life regardless of age. My mother was one of those people who died 6 months after a cancer battle. She was 41!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Caring for the dying and caring for the elderly are not the same thing. Not only is it probably deeply upsetting to any if our elders reading this, but it demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about what elderly care actually is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I thought that hospices were for people in the very last months or weeks of their lives,regardless of age.The government seems to be saying that they should take in old people who may live for years.This is not what they're for and is not fair on the terminally ill who need them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    My wife is a Hospice nurse and has been nursing for 27 years. Many patients she cares for are not elderley,and some are younger than her. They rarely have empty beds,are always short staffed,She is often asked to work extra shifts despite being phsically and mentally shattered. She has just had her pay cut £50 pm. Her job is to give the best end of life care possible.Don't fix what ain't broke

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Leave hospices alone!
    Next time mistreatment occurs to elderly,POLICE should ARREST perpetrators AND the people who own/run premises.
    This should be done with TV publicity, and should result in a custodial sentence. There would then be no need to shuffle off responsibility.
    Jail a better deterrant than "lesson learning"
    If "carers"knew they could face jail,maybe that would be a better deterrant?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Let us not forget that on average only 34% of a Hospice's Budget comes from central Government. The remainder has to be found by fund raising legacies etc. Who will fund that if they are to look after the elderly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Several relatives have received good care at Hospices (in so far as it is possible to judge). Neither of my parents needed one, nor nursing homes etc. (They clocked up 193 years between them & went quickly essentially at home.)

    Dying in a hospice certainly beats in hospital - it shouldn't, but it does. The NHS should be aware that every patient will die and not reject death as some aberration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    My late parents & I truly HATE getting persistent begging letters after we have given donations in memory of a deceased relative - just because you have donated once does not mean that it is not truly offensive to get begging letters till one's own death - into the recycling! Same goes for the the British Heart Foundation etc.

    We are all going to die, but being reminded every week is a pain!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Many hospices have struggled during recession/austerity, and many have also closed.

    Lets not forget what Hospices are.

    They are a very important care service that this & previous government abhorantly neglect funding.

    Also, remember its not just the old that use these,children & people of all ages, yet government does so very little, government see the dieing as a waste of money

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I personally feel that the families of those who need to go into care should take them into their homes and provide some sort of care where possible, even if it means a day nurse popping in at the morning and evening. Hospices can make some people even more depressed because they feel abandoned by their family

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Hospices provide a safe and dignified atmosphere for people approaching the end of their lives and are far more suitable than hospitals imo.

    There has been a lot of bad publicity regarding how some older people are treated in care, but there should also be thanks given to the wonderful hospice staff who devote their lives to the care of people in the twighlight of their lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    My mother died in a hospice where she received the best of care and treatment. The only thing missing was what she wanted - to be assisted in an earlier dignified death.
    How many others are being kept alive when they wish their life to be ended ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    5 Hours ago
    Hospices do an excellent job and need more support.
    The only way to solve ‘Care for the Elderly’ is to scrape profit . We run a Social Enterprise (No profits) and have done so for years. Prices low carers paid 50% more and few problems.
    So you see Take out the profits and all these high flying jobs and lobbyists for investor groups THINK OF PEOPLE NOT MONEY

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    A message to Westminster. Do not meddle in hospices. Allow these institutions to carry on giving care to those who are on their death beds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I used to work for a hospice. It gave excellent care to cancer and MND patients and was staffed by caring professional people.

    Hospices are NOT the right place for people who need specialist elderly care - their needs are entirely different from the needs of terminally-ill patients. Nor do hospices have the money or resources.

    Elderly care should be given by the NHS and funded by the State.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Put a stop to the foreign aid we give away each day and put it into care for the elderly. Change to way we run old persons homes and run them the same way as the Hospices, 1 Using the same Ethos as them, 2, more better trained staff, 3 better pay, 4 all homes should have a Manager that has worked in a Hospice for 12 months to see how it is done, we respect,gentle care understanding and love.


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