Imminence of death among hospital inpatients: Prevalent cohort study

Palliat Med. 2014 Jun;28(6):474-479. doi: 10.1177/0269216314526443.


Background: There is a dearth of evidence on the proportion of the hospital population at any one time, that is in the last year of life, and therefore on how hospital policies and services can be oriented to their needs.

Aim: To establish the likelihood of death within 12 months of a cohort of hospital inpatients on a given census date.

Design: Prevalent cohort study.

Participants: In total, 10,743 inpatients in 25 Scottish teaching and general hospitals on 31 March 2010.

Results: In all, 3098 (28.8%) patients died during follow-up: 2.9% by 7 days, 8.9% by 30 days, 16.0% by 3 months, 21.2% by 6 months, 25.5% by 9 months and 28.8% by 12 months. Deaths during the index admission accounted for 32.3% of all deaths during the follow-up year. Mortality rose steeply with age and was three times higher at 1 year for patients aged 85 years and over compared to those who were under 60 years (45.6% vs 13.1%; p < 0.001). In multivariate analyses, men were more likely to die than women (odds ratio: 1.18, 95% confidence interval: 0.95-1.47) as were older patients (odds ratio: 4.99, 95% confidence interval: 3.94-6.33 for those who were 85 years and over compared to those who were under 60 years), deprived patients (odds ratio: 1.17, 95% confidence interval: 1.01-1.35 for most deprived compared to least deprived quintile) and those admitted to a medical specialty (odds ratio: 3.13, 95% confidence interval: 2.48-4.00 compared to surgical patients).

Conclusion: Large numbers of hospital inpatients have entered the last year of their lives. Such data could assist in advocacy for these patients and should influence end-of-life care strategies in hospital.

Keywords: Inpatients; end-of-life care; hospitalisation; mortality; palliative care; social deprivation; terminal care.