Research Article

Terminal care: present services and future priorities.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981; 283 doi: (Published 29 August 1981) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981;283:595
  1. B Lunt,
  2. R Hillier


    Since 1975 hospices and other specialist services for terminal cancer have expanded rapidly. In December 1980 this survey found 72 such services in Britain providing 58 inpatient units, 32 home care teams, and eight hospital support teams. Many were outside the NHS. Inpatient units provided 1297 beds (modal size 21-25 beds) and dealt with under 7% of deaths from cancer. Home care teams provided 76.5 full-time equivalent nurses (modal size two nurses). Regional variations were considerable: from 10.9 beds/million population in Trent to 48.5 beds/million in South-west Thames; no home care nurses in Mersey and Wales, and 5.1 nurses/million in Wessex. Of 58 more services being planned, the 17 starting in 1981 will not substantially alter these regional imbalances. Respondents' opinions suggest a target of 40-50 inpatient unit beds/million population. This might be reduced if hospitals were better equipped to deal with these patients. Suggested priorities are to redress regional inequalities, develop home care and hospital support teams rather than inpatient units, and improve teaching and training. Co-ordination of plans between the NHS and the voluntary sector is needed.