When Professor David Clark and his team at Glasgow University researched the prevalence of death among hospital patients, theirs was the first study of its kind in the world. It told us something many people may have realised on a subconscious level, but which is rarely stated: A key part of the business of hospitals is death.

His 2010 study implied that nearly a third of those in hospital in Scotland at any one time will die within a year. Around one in ten of those in hospital on a given day will die during that hospital admission.

Speaking recently about the extensive snapshot research carried out on a single day five years ago Prof Clark revealed the existence of a follow up study, in 2013, which repeated the experiment, with almost exactly the same findings.

The remarkable study, which generated worldwide interest, was the focus of an event hosted by Marie Curie and the University of Glasgow, spotlighting end of life care in hospitals.

This may not tally with our modern ideas of a hospital as a hi-tech environment, where lives are routinely saved. But should hospitals do more to discuss death with patients? If they don't, who will? If we should, how do we make the time for hard pressed NHS staff, especially when new hospitals such as the new Dumfries General Hospital are geared to ensuring most patients spend as little time there as possible?

This is important research, when we know that 58 per cent of those who die in Scotland do so in hospital, even though 60 per cent of people say they would prefer to die at home. There's a kind of zealous palliative care evangelism which sees every death in hospital as a failure.

Professor Clark is more nuanced about this. In countries where very few people die in hospital, the standards of care in the community may be dismal. Meanwhile in the UK patients themselves have clear limits about palliative care at home, he said. They are more likely to reject it when it demands close relatives provide intimate personal care. Many draw the line if their home turns into a de facto hospital ward, crammed with equipment, and with unknown staff coming and going.

But the next six months will see the publication of a new Scottish Government strategic framework for action on palliative and end of life care, and the unveiling of palliative care plans by integrated health and social care boards, who have taken over responsibility for commissioning that care. It is a crucial time for such discussions.