The cost of dying in hospital

Current policy aims to reduce the length of stay and also the number of unscheduled admissions for patients who may be close to death and unable to benefit from hospital treatment.

This is an important part of the End of Life Care Strategy commitment to enabling patients to die in their preferred place, which is widely reported to be their home or usual place of residence.

Another reason for trying to reduce the number of deaths in hospital is to contain costs.

  • If current trends continue, 65% of deaths will occur in hospital by 2030.
  • Patients dying in England average 2.1 hospital admissions in their last year of life.
  • Typically towards the end of life each unplanned admission to hospital costs around £3000.
  • A recent study by the National Audit Office found that 40% of patients who died in hospital had no medical need or reason to remain there.

DEMOS estimates that the NHS currently spends £20 billion on providing beds for dying patients, and that this figure will rise to £30 billion by 2030. Regardless of patient and family preferences, it is easy to understand the pressure within the NHS to support dying patients in their homes, rather than hospital.

D Scherer

Copyright © 2013 Deidre Scherer