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Variation in hospital cost trajectories at the end of life by age, multimorbidity and cancer type

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16 January 2023

Published journal: International Journal of Population Data

About 2 mins to read



Approximately thirty thousand people in Scotland are diagnosed with cancer annually, of whom a third live less than one year. The timing, nature and value of hospital-based healthcare for patients with advanced cancer are not well understood. The study's aim was to describe the timing and nature of hospital-based healthcare use and associated costs in the last year of life for patients with a cancer diagnosis.


We undertook a Scottish population-wide administrative data linkage study of hospital-based healthcare use for individuals with a cancer diagnosis, who died aged 60 and over between 2012 and 2017. Hospital admissions and length of stay (LOS), as well as the number and nature of outpatient and day case appointments were analysed. Generalised linear models were used to adjust costs for age, gender, socioeconomic deprivation status, rural-urban (RU) status and comorbidity.


The study included 85,732 decedents with a cancer diagnosis. For 64,553 (75.3%) of them, cancer was the primary cause of death. Mean age at death was 80.01 (SD 8.15) years. The mean number of inpatient stays in the last year of life was 5.88 (SD 5.68), with a mean LOS of 7 days. Admission rates rose sharply in the last month of life. One year adjusted and unadjusted costs decreased with increasing age. A higher comorbidity burden was associated with higher costs. Major cost differences were present between cancer types.


People in Scotland in their last year of life with cancer are high users of secondary care. Hospitalisation accounts for a high proportion of costs, particularly in the last month of life. Further research is needed to examine triggers for hospitalisations and to identify influenceable reasons for unwarranted variation in hospital use among different cancer cohorts.


Diernberger, K., Luta, X., Bowden, J., Droney, J., Lemmon, E., Tramonti, G., Shinkins, B., Gray, E. ., Marti, J. and Hall, P. S. Variation in hospital cost trajectories at the end of life by age, multimorbidity and cancer type. International Journal of Population Data Science, 8, 1 (2023) .

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