Research finds that 70% of UK adults had never heard of an advance care plan and just 3% have one

Categories: Community Engagement and Education.

Recent research commissioned by St Christopher’s Hospice found that 70% of UK adults had never heard of an advance care plan and just 3% had one in place*. An advance care plan outlines your preferences about your future care and support, including decisions about medical treatment and end of life care. So why do so few of us have one?


Leonor, a nurse at St Christopher’s, shared: “We know people find it hard to talk about their wishes – it’s something we often put off and think we’ll do later. But talking about death won’t make it happen and it actually means you’re more likely to get the care and support you need when you need it. Plus, it’s a much easier conversation and action to take when you’re well and one less thing to worry about at the end of life.”

Death is something all of us will face and yet, as a society, it is often a topic we avoid and fail to prepare for. Yet, arguably, there has never been a greater call for more open conversations about death. The recent Assisted Dying Inquiry report published by the Health and Social Care Committee recommended that the Government establish a national strategy for death literacy noting that this ability to gain access to, understand and make informed choices about end of life would improve people’s care experiences.

This Dying Matters Awareness Week (6-12 May) St Christopher’s aims to encourage people to start those all-important conversations – something the research and recent conversations facilitated by the hospice suggests people feel reluctant to do.

“Death seems so permanent. It’s so unknown. We just don’t have the vocabulary to even start the conversation,” shares Andrew, a member of the public featured in St Christopher’s campaign.

In fact, more than 1 in 5 (24%) respondents said that they are not confident talking to their parents about dying, whilst nearly three in ten (29%) felt uncomfortable talking to their children about their dying wishes. So, what stops people sharing these preferences with those closest to them? Unsurprisingly, 30% shared that it was a fear of upsetting others.

“We often worry we’ll say the wrong thing”, Leonor continued, “but not saying anything is often much worse. We also know from experience that having these plans in place and ensuring your loved ones know what is important for you relieves a lot of pressure for them. We all want to protect those closest to us and this is one way you can do that.”

St Christopher’s are encouraging people to start thinking about what they would want at the end of life by asking questions like: If you knew your time was short, what would be most important to you?

What would your funeral song be? What advice would you give to future generations? Is there anyone you’d like to reconnect with?

St Christopher’s took to the streets of London to ask people some of these questions and will be releasing their answers as a series of short films via social media throughout the week. You can follow along and, if you’re feeling brave, add your own thoughts. Thinking about your wishes today could make things easier for you and the people close to you later.

To find out more about the research and to access further support in recording your wishes visit


*All figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2189 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th – 12th April 2024. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

About St Christopher’s Hospice

  • We were founded by Dame Cicely Saunders, who started the global hospice movement with the opening of St Christopher’s in 1967.
  • We are a charity, and we provide care and services free of charge. Though we are partially funded by the NHS, the majority of our running costs are very generously met by public donations. Each year, we need to raise at least £16million.
  • Our vision is of a world in which all dying people and those close to them have access to equitable care and support, whenever and wherever they need it.
  • Our goal is to help people live well until they die, and support those affected by the loss of a friend or relative.
  • Each person is unique, so we ask ‘what matters to you?’ and then tailor our care to meet social, emotional and spiritual needs, as well as manage physical symptoms.
  • Everyone should have access to the best care at the end of their lives and through a blend of expert practice, education and research we work with people across the world to improve and develop hospice care.
  • We usually have over 1,300 people under our care at any one time, and last year we provided care and support to over 5,000 patients and 1,358 carers and 445 children, both at home, out in the community and in the hospice.
  • We have over 500 dedicated staff and over 1,000 amazing volunteers.
  • You can support the hospice by donating, volunteering or shopping at one of our 24 local high street shops.
  • You can find our website by searching “” online, and we are also on social media – search @StChrisHospice on Twitter and Instagram.

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