Figures show more than half the deaths in Northumberland occur in hospital
More than half the deaths in Northumberland occur in a hospital, according to the latest data published by Public Health England.
But the proportion has fallen to 51 per cent in 2016 from 54 per cent five years earlier.
The data identifies the four most common places of death as hospitals, care homes, hospices and homes.
Although most studies point out that people prefer to die in the place they are usually cared for rather than in a hospital, in Northumberland only 24 per cent of the deaths where at home and 21 per cent at care homes.
A study carried out by King’s College London last year said that if current trends continue the need for end-of-life care will rise substantially over the next 25 years, particularly at home and in care homes.
In Northumberland, just one per cent of people died in hospices.
Anna Bone, lead author of the study, warned that hospital deaths could rise further unless capacity continues to increase in care homes.
She said: “The projected rise of deaths in care homes is striking and warns of the urgent need to ensure adequate bed capacity, resources and training of staff in palliative care in all care homes in the country.
“If we are to continue enabling people to die in their preferred place, it is essential to invest more in care homes and community health services.
“Without this investment, people are likely to seek help from hospitals, which puts pressure on an already strained system and is not where people would rather be at the end of their lives”.
Professor Irene Higginson, director of the Cicely Saunders Institute, a group of researchers on palliative care, added: “We must ask care home and community services whether they are equipped to support such an increase, and provide care of quality.
“The time has come to test new approaches, such as innovative palliative care models in care homes and the community, to ensure we address this growing need which will affect us all, directly and indirectly, in the years to come. Otherwise we will be faced with more deaths in hospital, or poor quality end of life care or both.”
On average, 47 per cent of deaths registered in England in 2016 took place in hospitals. Home was the second most common place to die, with 23 per cent of the total.
Care homes were the location of 22 per cent of deaths, followed by hospices, with just six per cent.
Rick Wright, policy manager for England at the charity Marie Curie, said: “The number of care home beds available to people aged 75 or over has been steadily declining in recent years. This lack of capacity in care homes often leaves people stuck in hospital at the end of their lives.
“It’s plain to see that the demand for community-based end of life care is increasing rapidly beyond the ability to deliver it. The country is woefully unprepared for the care needs of the future.”