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Few surveys have been carried out documenting the quality of life for non-cancer patients in general district hospitals reaching the final trajectory towards death. We carried out a survey of 80 patients facing the final stages of their chronic illness as well as their carers and hospital staff.With increasing life expectancy, a large majority of patients are older, where palliative care principles for patients with cancer are equally applicable. Few surveys have been carried out documenting the quality of life for non-cancer patients in general district hospitals reaching the final trajectory towards death in terms of patients’ and carers’ perspective, compared with the more extensive literature for patients with cancer.Survey.Assessment tools include symptom check list, geriatric depression scale, Chinese Death Anxiety Inventory and the McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire for patients; SF-12 and the Chinese cost of care index for informal carers; and the Chinese Maslach Bumout and Death Anxiety Inventories for hospital staff.Lower-limb weakness (92·5%), fatigue (86·2%), oedema (85%), dysphagia (58·2%) and pain (48·8%) were the most common symptoms in this group of patients. The mean Chinese Caregiver Stress Index score was 45·93 (SD 6·45) (maximum score = 80). For staff, the mean SF-12 physical component score was lower than the Hong Kong population average.The findings suggest that there is room for improvement in the quality of end-of-life care.Patients in the final stages of many chronic illnesses have high prevalence of symptoms comparable to those of patients with cancer. Raising awareness and improving training for all health care professionals, formulating guidelines and care pathways and incorporating quality of care as key performance indicators are measures to improve the quality of end-of-life care.