DYING at home is becoming more common in Shropshire, according to official figures.

The latest data from Public Health England reveals that about 24 per cent of the deaths registered in 2016 happened at home, up from 21 per cent five years earlier.

The data identifies the four most common places of death as hospitals, care homes, hospices and homes.

Although most deaths in Shropshire occur in hospitals, the number has risen in five years - from 1,364 in 2011 to 1,370 in 2016.

About 24 per cent of the deaths in the area occurred at care home facilities while seven per cent took place at hospices.

A study carried out by King's College London last year pointed out that most people prefer to die in the place they are usually cared for, including home, rather than in a hospital.

Anna Bone, lead author of the study, warned that hospital deaths could rise further unless capacity continues to increase in care homes.

She said: “The projected rise of deaths in care homes is striking and warns of the urgent need to ensure adequate bed capacity, resources and training of staff in palliative care in all care homes in the country.

“If we are to continue enabling people to die in their preferred place, it is essential to invest more in care homes and community health services.

"Without this investment, people are likely to seek help from hospitals, which puts pressure on an already strained system and is not where people would rather be at the end of their lives”.

Professor Irene Higginson, director of the Cicely Saunders Institute, a group of researchers on palliative care, added: "We must ask care home and community services whether they are equipped to support such an increase, and provide care of quality.

"The time has come to test new approaches, such as innovative palliative care models in care homes and the community, to ensure we address this growing need which will affect us all, directly and indirectly, in the years to come. Otherwise we will be faced with more deaths in hospital, or poor quality end of life care or both.”

On average, 47 per cent of deaths registered in England in 2016 took place in hospitals. Home was the second most common place to die, with 23 per cent of the total.

Care homes were the location of 22 per cent of deaths, followed by hospices, with just six per cent.

Rick Wright, policy manager for England at the charity Marie Curie, said: “The number of care home beds available to people aged 75 or over has been steadily declining in recent years. This lack of capacity in care homes often leaves people stuck in hospital at the end of their lives.

“It’s plain to see that the demand for community-based end of life care is increasing rapidly beyond the ability to deliver it. The country is woefully unprepared for the care needs of the future."