Charity plea over end of life care
Almost three-quarters of cancer patients in England who die in hospital beds would prefer to die at home, figures suggest.
This is the equivalent of 36,000 cancer patients every year, t he estimated data from Macmillan Cancer Support showed.
It comes as the charity launched a new report setting out recommendations for improving choice at the end of life.
It is also calling on the Government to make social care free for everyone in their last weeks.
The 2012 National Bereavement Survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed relatives and carers of cancer patients who died thought care in hospitals was often sub-par to care received at home.
Some 63% of those whose loved one died at home rated the overall quality of care received as excellent or outstanding, compared to only 37% of those whose loved one died in hospital.
And 41% of people with terminal cancer were not always treated with dignity and respect by hospital doctors, the survey found.
Macmillan said too many people are still spending their last hours and days on hospital wards, two years after the Palliative Care Funding Review (PCFR) recommended free social care for those at the end of life.
Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "As the Government makes up its mind about whether to fund and implement free social care at the end of life, thousands of people with terminal cancer are being left to die in hospital beds against their wishes.
"This is putting an unnecessary strain on our A&E departments because people are not getting access to social care for themselves or for their carers which would enable them to be cared for in the comfort of their own home.
"It's simply not good enough to pay lip service to this issue - we need to see action. If the Government wants the NHS to deliver world-class care at the end of life in the UK, it needs to start by giving people a real choice about where they die."
Lacey Phillips, 31, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, cared for her father who died of head and neck cancer in 2012.
She said: "Nobody explicitly told my dad he was at the end of his life, or explained what might be available in terms of support.
"We would have liked to have been given more options on his care - what they could do, what he was entitled to, or what potential costs might be involved. We would all have preferred him to die either at home or in a hospice, where he would have felt more comfortable."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We are committed to improving and increasing the choice available for patients at the end of their life so they can choose where to spend their last days.
"As part of our work to improve end of life care, the current system for funding palliative care is being reviewed, with the intention to introduce a new system in 2015/16."
Imelda Redmond, director of policy and public affairs at Marie Curie Cancer Care, said: "We know that 91% of people would choose to die in their own homes or in a hospice.
"However, almost 55% of people actually die in hospital, the place they least want to be, and an estimated 114,000 people who die in hospital each year have no clinical need to be there.
"It's essential that we focus our attention on giving people the right support to make it easier for them to move out of hospital and be cared for in their place of choice at the end of their lives - be it a care home, hospice or their family home. Free social care for those who are terminally ill is one of the steps that will help make this possible for more people."
Jason Suckley, director of policy at health and social care charity Sue Ryder, welcomed the report.
He said: "As the report highlights, too many people are not able to die where they want, which for most is at home. Hardly anybody wants to die in hospital but around half of people do.
"This isn't good enough. Everyone should get the care they want at the end of their lives but all too often this isn't the case.
"Sue Ryder is part of a coalition of charities alongside Macmillan who have been lobbying for free social care at end of life for some time; if implemented it would make a significant difference to enabling more people to die at home if they want to.
"It would also reduce avoidable emergency hospital admissions which are extremely distressing for the individual and their family, as well as costly to the state.
"However, in order to enable people to choose the care they want in their last few months, weeks and days of life, it is vital to not only look at place of death but also the elements of care that are important to people.
"In our recent report Time and a Place, we found many people would sacrifice pain relief in order to die at home with their family. This is unacceptable.
"To address this, all care settings should offer more varied support for people and their families including services such as hospice at home which provide specialist medical care to manage pain as well as much needed emotional support in the comfort of a person's home."