Hospital is the most common place of death for children with cancer

Together for Short Lives has welcomed a new study into the place of death for children and young people with cancer. The study, led by King’s College London and funded by Marie Curie looked at how the place of death in children and young people with cancer has changed over the period 1993-2014, following a number of national initiatives to improve end-of-life care. It found that although the number of children and young people with cancer dying in hospices has risen over the past two decades, the most common place of death remains hospitals followed by home. 

The paper, published in BMC Cancer, examined data from the death registration database of the Office for National Statistics covering 12,774 children and young people (up to the age of 24) whose deaths were recorded as being due to or related to cancer. 

Barbara Gelb OBE, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives said:

"Together for Short Lives welcomes this study, providing valuable insight into the place of death for children and young people with cancer. These children often have a very different care journey to those with non-malignant conditions, with many developing close contacts with hospital teams, for example, which could influence the chosen place of death. The important thing is that professionals encourage these families and young people to explore, talk about and plan for their end of life choices – and find out what is right for them. 

There are many factors to consider, including how pain and potentially distressing symptoms can best be managed, whether the location can accommodate equipment and medical supplies and what the impact the situation will have on the wider family. We need a flexible approach and families need to know they can change their minds, even if this happens close to the end of their lives.

Real choice also depends on comprehensive children's palliative care being in place which can support families around the clock, including at evenings and weekends. This means joined up services working across the statutory, voluntary and private sectors and across different settings.” 

Together for Short Lives own evidence shows that this is happening in too few places and is calling call on the government, NHS and councils to work together to realise ministers' recent choice commitment for children and young people who need palliative care

‘Place of death in children and young people with cancer and implications for end of life care: a population-based study in England, 1993–2014’ by Gao et al is published in BMC Cancer on Monday 19 September 2016. DOI 10.1186/s12885-016-2695-1 You can read the article here. 

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