17/12/2013 08:39 GMT | Updated 16/02/2014 05:59 GMT

Helping Those Who Are Terminally Ill Receive the Care They Need at Home

Social care is vitally important to terminally ill people and their families, if they are to be cared for at home (where research shows most people wanted to be cared for), rather than in a hospital setting.

Yet those with a terminal illness can wait weeks for their local councils to assess their care needs and carry out financial assessments, meaning tragically, some have died before being able to receive the care they want and need.

The second reading of the Care Bill this week provides an opportunity for MPs to look at how including a statutory duty for local authorities to fast track funding for social care can be included in the Bill.

This would build on the progress made when the Care Bill went through its second reading at the House of Lords earlier this year. Marie Curie and Help the Hospice's supported amendments by Lord Warner and Lord Patel when the Government tabled Amendment 57, which gives local authorities the option to treat the care needs of terminally ill people as urgent.

Currently, over 50% of people in the UK die in hospital despite only 8% saying this would be their preference. The National Audit Office estimated that 40% of those dying in our hospitals have no clinical need to be there.

This is undesirable for terminally ill people, their families and the NHS.

If those with a terminal illness were moved out of hospital and into a community setting - supported by social care - they would receive the care they want, in the place of their choice. And it would free up hospital resources for those needing clinical care.

A study by the Nuffield Trust showed that where terminally ill people had access to local authority funded social care, they were far less likely to use hospital care. This backs up Marie Curie's own experiences as a leading provider of end of life care

While we welcome the Government's amendment, we have questions about how this will be applied locally. If local authorities have the option to fast-track social care for terminally ill people and their families, but no incentives to do so, then this could lead to a high degree of variation across the country in the availability of social care.

Where terminally ill people live already plays a large factor in whether they get access to good health and social care services. There is a possibility that the inequity in access to services for terminally ill people could deepen based on where people live.

We would welcome MPs probing the Government on how they will ensure that terminally ill people get consistent access to high-quality care across the country and the introduction of a statutory duty for local authorities to fast track social care for those who are terminally ill.