Deprivation and end of life care

The challenge of Britain’s aging population has been a recurrent issue in the media for the past few years. Recently the average UK age hit 40 and for the first time ever there are now more over 65s than under 16s in the country. Within this statistic the proportion of very old people is expected to grow even faster due, among other things, to improving medical care – by 2037 the amount of over 85s in the UK is predicted to more than double.

What this could mean in terms of service provision is an increase in pressure on health services, and in particular palliative or end of life care. The Marie Curie institute has a report on people’s experience of palliative care which highlights different experiences in dying at home, hospital, hospice and care home (for those interested, hospices offered relatively higher quality care and pain relief according to National Survey of Bereaved People in England findings). The report noted that:

“the overall quality of care experienced in the last three months of life was less likely to be considered ‘outstanding’ or ‘excellent’ by people in more deprived areas compared to less deprived areas. Quality of care received from GPs was also less likely to be considered ‘excellent’”

The study also found that people in more deprived areas were less likely to feel like they had enough support to provide end of life care in their home, and perhaps due to this were more likely to die in hospital than at home. Suggested reasons were that housing in more deprived areas is seen as less suitable for end of life care, or that those in affluent areas can pay for additional support.

The authors stated there was “a range of inequities in provision” of palliative care as well as significant overall under-provision, suggesting that extending palliative care in areas that are under-serviced could be cost effective due to reducing strain on other services and arguing that investment must be efficiently allocated.

Read the report in full here.

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