Press release

First national survey of bereaved people shines light on end of life care

In a world first, the Government has turned the spotlight on the quality of care received by people in the last three months of their life. 

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


In a ground breaking survey published today the Office for National Statistics reports significant differences in the quality of care experienced according to the age of patient at death, cause of death and place of death, with hospice care rated the most positively.

Ministers commissioned the ONS to carry out the survey to address a big gap in the data on end of life care.

Key findings from the National Bereavement Survey, 2011, which asked bereaved people about the quality of care provided for their loved one, show:

  • Seventy five per cent of people reported the overall quality of end of life care to be outstanding, excellent or good.
  • Hospice care was rated the most positively, with 92 per cent of people rating it as excellent or good.
  • Cancer patients and patients under 65 were most likely to rate their care as outstanding or excellent.
  • There was a notable variation in dignity and respect, with hospice care coming out top and care in hospitals bottom.

The survey findings will underpin a new indicator for end of life care in the NHS Outcomes Framework.

Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow said:

All people, regardless of their age or condition, should get the best quality care at the end of life.

The results of this survey will be carefully studied by NHS and social care professionals.  It reveals a wide variation in the quality of care across the country.  There is more to be done to improve both the way care is co-ordinated for people in their own homes and the quality of care in hospital.

We are already working with hospices, the NHS and social care to pilot new ways of working and put in place a secure funding system to support palliative care.

These results will help health and social care to benchmark the care they deliver and learn from the best.

The Government has recently introduced a range of measures aimed at ensuring all patients are treated with dignity and respect. This includes the ban on age discrimination in health and care services, which will be introduced in October 2012, and the creation of an independently chaired Nursing and Care Quality Forum.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, National Clinical Director for End of Life Care said:

This survey is a key step in addressing the significant lack of data on end of life care services. For the first time, it provides us with information about people’s quality of care across all care settings, and enables us to see how this varies across the country.

Used alongside the information generated by other initiatives, such as the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network, the survey findings will be of huge benefit to those responsible for commissioning and delivering services.

The survey contained 59 questions, addressing a broad range of issues including co-ordination of care, patients’ involvement in decisions and support for carers.

In addition to the overall national results, the findings have been broken down by the 51 Primary Care Trust (PCT) clusters in England in 2011/12.

Surveys were sent to 48,766 individuals who had been identified as informants of a death between November 2010 and June 2011. A total of 22, 292 surveys were returned completed, giving a response rate of 45.7 per cent.

The survey was carried out by ONS staff with respect and discretion, bearing in mind that the survey contained questions of a sensitive nature. The ONS provided a free national telephone number for the Survey Enquiry Line, and worked closely with Cruse Bereavement Care to help people get access to bereavement support if needed.

Notes to editors

1. For further information please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5317
2. The Department of Health report will be available on the DH website.
3. The full statistical findings from the survey can be accessed on the Office for National Statistics website.

Published 3 July 2012