End-of-life care is failing the terminally ill and their families, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Patients in England who want to spend their last days at home are often unable to do so, the report said.
It found that only 29 per cent of doctors and 18 per cent of nurses are trained in end-of-life care, while spending in the area varies widely between different locations around the country.
Basic measures such as treating people with “dignity and respect” were absent, the NAO said.
Karen Taylor, head of health at the NAO, said: “There are examples of good practice out there, but generally the system is not meeting the needs of people.
“The lack of training is undermining the confidence and expectation of involvement of many health professionals.
“It means families and care homes are left on their own to cope.”
The report said the Government’s recent end-of-life care strategy is ambitious but not necessarily achievable.
Gordon Lishman, of Age Concern, said: “Age discrimination continues to haunt older people even at the end of life.
“The government and the NHS need to stop dragging their feet on ageist practice and ensure everyone can get good quality care at the end of their lives.”
The report follows a spate of calls for assisted suicide to be made legal for the elderly or terminally ill.
The Government’s new ‘Voice for the elderly’, Dame Joan Bakewell, was recently criticised for suggesting this be made available for dementia sufferers.
The euthanasia lobby was accused of misleading tactics last week when Peers debated its ‘Charter for Dignity at the End of Life’.
The Charter, drawn up by Dignity in Dying, focuses mainly on end-of-life care, but includes one clause calling for this to include the availability of assisted suicide.
During the debate, Baroness Knight of Collingtree said the group “is trying to fool us.”
She went on: “It is a bit like slipping a bottle of cyanide into a weekend shopping list and hoping that it will not be noticed among the Daz, eggs and vegetables.”
She added: “Terminally ill but mentally competent people will, if the true aims of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society are realised, submit themselves to a lethal injection or a fatal dose, when it is made clear to them in a subtle or direct way that it is time that they shuffled off this mortal coil for the general good.”