UP to one in four people who died at Northampton General Hospital could have been allowed to pass away in comfort at home given better planning of their care, a detailed review of patient notes suggests.
The review of the notes of 237 patients who died at NGH, many of whom were frail and elderly with cancer or dementia, found that hospital care was not needed for 25 per cent of them.
It is accepted by the NHS that most people with a debilitating condition want to die at home or another comfortable place such as a hospice given the choice.
Dr Sonia Swart, medical director at the hospital, said: “It’s difficult because these people are ill, they have in a lot of cases come in because of a long-term condition.
“The general view is that if something bad happens to you, you should be in hospital.
“But in some people’s cases it’s not appropriate to intervene any further.
“It’s an ethical question in many ways. Is a hospital bed always where you should be when you are at the end of your life?
“We need to have discussion with all our partners on this. Is there a better way of looking after these patients that will give them greater dignity?”
NHS Northamptonshire has responsibility for the care of people in the county with long-term illnesses outside of hospital treatment.
Dr Matthew Davies, a GP leading NHS Northamptonshire on end of life care, said: “We continue to work hard with hospital colleagues to ensure that end of life services commissioned and provided are of the very highest standard, and that we can assist as many people as possible to realise their wishes at the end of life.”
He added: ”Here in Northamptonshire we are working to ensure more people get support towards the end of their life and have more say over where they spend their final days, including the development of more community based end of life services.
“Many of us have specific wishes about how we would like to die, or what we would like to happen after our death.
“But unless we discuss these with family, friends and health professionals our wishes will not be met. With one person in the UK dying every minute, dying, death and bereavement is simply too big an issue for us not to discuss properly.”
More information is at www.dyingmatters.co.uk