Scotland

Warning over 'unnecessary' hospital admissions for terminally ill patients

Patient in hospital Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In 2016 there were nearly 100,000 emergency admissions for people in the last year of their life

The NHS could be facing an annual bill of more than £470m to cope with emergency admissions for terminally ill patients, a leading charity has said.

Marie Curie said improved community care could avoid unnecessary strain on Scottish hospitals.

It found that in 2016 there were nearly 100,000 emergency admissions for people in the last year of their life, costing the NHS £285m.

The charity warned that could almost double over the next twenty years.

The Scottish government wants everyone who needs palliative care to have access to it by 2021, with a doubling of services.

Marie Curie said there has been a decline over the last five years in the number of emergency beds used by dying people but even if the trend continues to lower more A&E services would still be needed.

Richard Meade, head of policy and public affairs Scotland at Marie Curie, said: "Unnecessary hospital admissions are a huge cost to the NHS and as the number of people dying each year is set to increase significantly, we need to address the provision of care now in order to avoid further crisis.

"While some emergency hospital admissions for people living with a terminal illness are appropriate and necessary, many are not and can often be avoided entirely if appropriate care in the community is provided.

"Being rushed repeatedly to hospital is stressful and upsetting, particularly when someone may have little time left."

Image copyright Getty Images

The charity said A&E should be a last resort.

Mr Meade added: "The integration of health and social care gives us a fighting chance to improve care in the community.

"If the Scottish government realises its ambition that everyone who needs palliative care has access to it by 2021, including a doubling of community palliative care services, then this will help to continue to ease the pressure on hospitals and acute settings now and in the future."

Research by the Nuffield Trust has shown that hospital costs are by far the largest cost involved in end-of-life care.

The Scottish government said Scotland was "widely recognised for providing high quality palliative care".

A spokeswoman added: "The Marie Curie report notes that we have responded to the demands of an aging population on health and care services through the integration of health and social care.

"This reform seeks to ensure that those who use services get the right care and support whatever their needs, at any point in their care journey, and will enable more people to be supported in the community at the end of life."

Dr Adrian Boyle, chair of the quality emergency care committee at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: "The last thing patients at the end of their lives want is to be in hospital.

"Increasing the resources available to social care will not only help reduce avoidable admissions, free up beds and relieve pressure on our struggling emergency departments, but will afford terminal patients the dignity and comfort of living out their last days in familiar surroundings."

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