Hospitals will no longer be the most common place to die in Scotland if trends continue, according to a leading charity.
Research by Marie Curie, University of Edinburgh and Kings College London suggests two thirds of Scottish people will die at home, in a care home or in a hospice by 2040 – despite less than half of deaths occurring in these places currently.
However, the terminal illness charity has warned that, without radical investment in community health and social care services, hospital deaths will rise again and could peak at 37,089 (57 per cent) in 2040.
In response to the research, published by BMC Palliative Care, charity Marie Curie is calling on the Scottish Government and Health and Social Care Partnerships to make care of people with a terminal illness a top priority.
The research predicts there will be nearly 16 per cent more deaths in Scotland in the next 20 years, taking the annual figure to 65,756.
If current trends continue, the proportion of people who die at home will increase from 23 per cent in 2016 to 29 per cent by 2040. Similarly, deaths in Scottish care homes will increase from 19 per cent to 29 per cent over the same period. The proportion of people dying in hospital will fall.
The findings contrast with a previous study reporting trends in England and Wales which found that care homes could overtake hospitals as the most common place for people to die by 2040.
Anne Finucane, lead author and Marie Curie research lead, said: “Our research found that increasing the number of health and social care professionals working in the community needs to be a priority if Scotland is to provide end-of-life care for people who prefer to die in their usual place of residence.
“Identifying and providing information and support for informal carers, often family members, is also crucial.
“Volunteers, friends and neighbours could also play a vital role by checking on people approaching the end of life in their own community, offering to help with practical tasks, offering respite or even just being present with anyone who may be worried or on their own.”