CREDIT: PASCAL LACHENAUD/AFP
Thousands of cancer patients are dying in needless pain because of disjointed care for people who have returned home to be with loved ones, experts have warned.
New data reveals one in ten people who die of cancer have inadequate pain relief in their final 48 hours.
Charities have criticised the Office for National Statistics figures as “unacceptable”, and called on the Government to make good on its manifesto pledge to improve the standard of palliative care.
Macmillan Cancer Support, which conducted the analysis, said fears of uncontrollable pain were cancer patients’ top concern as they approached the end of life.
The organisation says 12,000 people who died from the disease in 2015 were not cared for properly in the final stages.
Many of these were outside hospital and reliant on community services such as visiting nurses to receive pain-relieving drugs.
The ONS statistics showed patients were four times more likely to die in pain at home than in hospital.
Macmillan said their research revealed that of the people who felt services had not worked properly when they had been treated at home, 72% also had poor pain relief.
Lynda Thomas, the charity’s chief executive, said: “There’s no excuse for so many people with cancer still not getting the support they need at the end of their lives.
“Absolutely no one should suffer unnecessary pain in their final days – with the right support this can be avoidable.
“We need better-coordinated, round-the-clock community care to help prevent this anguish.
The last year the Government committed to providing high quality end-of-life care to all patients regardless of location, a pledge that was repeated in the General Election manifesto.
“The Government must now make these promises a reality and end the variation in the quality of care people receive,” said Ms Thomas.
“Things cannot carry on the way they are.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Cancer survival is at a record high and we are fully committed to improving cancer outcomes for everyone, including palliative care, which we know is not always good enough.
“That’s exactly why our strategy for achieving world-class cancer outcomes includes a clear commitment to ensure earlier access to palliative support, which we expect NHS England to deliver for patients.”