MP for East Hampshire
It is essential that we take note of, and do what we can to implement, individual choice in these circumstances.
According to Marie Curie Cancer Care, despite less than five per cent of people saying they want to die in hospital, more than 50 per cent of us end up doing so.
Some of the reasons for this disparity include adequate care being difficult to access or privately fund.
However, it is in the country’s best interests to try to accommodate palliative care at home.
By enabling individuals to end their lives in a more familiar environment, hospital beds can be used to treat those with life-threatening illnesses who have the potential to recover.
There is also a tangible financial benefit. Statistics from Macmillan Cancer Care suggest that free social care for the estimated 36,400 people with cancer who died in 2012 at hospital (but would have preferred to die at home) could have saved the NHS approximately £69m. I was fortunate to be able to visit the Rosemary Foundation in Petersfield recently to discuss its end-of-life care work. The Foundation provides hands-on nursing care for individuals who wish to remain in their own homes as they near the end of their lives, and also offers counselling and bereavement support to their families.
It has been in operation for 16 years and is supported entirely by charitable giving.
The team there does hugely valuable work bringing comfort to those who wish to die at home and relieving pressure on the rest of the health service, as do other care organisations in Hampshire such as the Rowans Hospice and St Michael’s Hospice.
With more of us living longer lives this type of care is going to be of more importance than ever over the coming years.
It is essential that, while we are fit and healthy, we share our wishes in the event of a terminal illness with our loved ones so that as many of us as possible can end our lives in the way that we wish.