Care homes are becoming a more common place to die for people in Burnley, with almost one in five deaths occurring in nursing facilities according to the latest data from Public Health England.
Experts in ageing have urged the Government to put more funding into community care to increase the number of nursing home beds available to meet the future demand, with new data revealing that about 19% of the deaths registered in 2016 occurred in care homes, up from only 16% five years earlier.
A study published by King's College London last year pointed out that care homes will be the most common place where people die by 2040, overtaking hospitals. The PHE data identifies the four most common places of death as hospitals, care homes, hospices and homes.
Although most deaths in Burnley still occur in hospitals, the number has fallen in five years - from 466 in 2011 to 417 in 2016 - while only 26% of the deaths occurred at home and 5% in hospices.
King's research says that most people prefer to die in the place they are usually cared for, including home, rather than in a hospital, with Anna Bone, lead author of the study, warning that hospital deaths could rise further unless capacity continues to increase in care homes.
“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," she said. “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," she added.
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," Professor Higginson continued. "Otherwise we will be faced with more deaths in hospital, or poor quality end of life care or both.”
On average, 47% of deaths registered in England in 2016 took place in hospitals. Home was the second most common place to die, with 23% of the total. Care homes were the location of 22% of deaths, followed by hospices, with just 6%.
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," he added. "The country is woefully unprepared for the care needs of the future."