Press release

New research reveals true regional picture of end of life care

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

Wide variations in the quality of end of life care across the country were revealed in statistics published today by the Office of National Statistics.

The VOICES survey, which is based on the experiences of bereaved people and the quality of care received by their loved ones in their last three months of life, showed how:

  • Health services in the South West were regularly rated in the top 20 per cent across all areas of care. Bournemouth and Poole and Dorset services were rated particularly highly.
  • The North East and North West of the country were rated highly, particularly for quality of care, dignity, respect and support. Health services in the North of Tyne scored highly across all areas.
  • The poorest ratings across all criteria were given to London health services, which were featured regularly in the bottom 20 per cent.

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

Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb said:

All people have the right to the best quality of care at the end of their life, and we have made clear our commitment to achieving this.

This survey shows that a wide variation in the quality of end of life care remains. Whilst there are some excellent examples of care, there is still more to do to ensure that standards are raised across the country.

The results of this survey will be carefully studied by NHS and social care professionals, comparing the care they deliver with other similar areas and ensuring that they learn from the best.

Ensuring people receive the best care possible is at the heart of a number of initiatives. Currently, the consultation on the NHS Constitution includes the proposal for a responsibility for staff to treat patients not only with the highest standards of care, but crucially with compassion, dignity and respect.

Dr Martin McShane, Domain Lead (Long Term Conditions), NHS Commissioning Board said:

We are serious about improving end of life care, and to do that we absolutely need to know how people experience end of life care services. The VOICES survey allows us to hear patients and families, and we should listen to them.

This supplementary report provides further valuable analysis of the data from the VOICES survey. It complements the range of information that is now being generated to address the lack of data for end of life care, such as through locality profiles developed by the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network.

In enabling benchmarking of regional services, this analysis will be of great value to those responsible for commissioning and delivering end of life care.

Notes to editors

  1. The full statistical findings from the survey can be accessed on the Office for National Statistics website.
  2. The survey contained 59 questions, addressing a broad range of issues including co-ordination of care, patients’ involvement in decisions and support for carers.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.