Ensuring everyone who needs palliative care gets it in Scotland by 2021

The Scottish Government has now published its long awaited Strategic Framework for Action on Palliative and End   of Life Care. At its heart is the aim to ensure that everyone who needs palliative care gets it by the end of 2021. It is an ambitious aim and the Scottish Government should be applauded for it.

Marie Curie Glasgow Hospice

The document makes clear that it aims to ensure that everyone has good quality end of life care regardless of their age, diagnosis, socio-economic background or where they live. These are aims that Marie Curie has been calling for since the spring and the launch of the consultation phase of the framework.

The charity has been heavily involved since the Scottish Government announced its plans to develop the framework at our policy seminar, which we held in partnership with the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care (SPPC), in February 2014. Since then, many of our staff and members of our Expert Voices Group have contributed to the charity’s formal consultation response, as well as taking part in public engagement events held by the Scottish Government.

The framework was launched at the Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh by the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, Shona Robison MSP. 

Launch of the Strategic framework for Action for palliative and end of life care at the Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh. From left to right: Professor Craig White Divisional Clinical Lead in the Quality and Planning Division of the Healthcare Quality and Strategy Directorate, Scottish Government; Hilary Ford Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh Hospice Manager, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport; Shona Robison MSP; Professor David Clark, Wellcome Trust Investigator at the University of Glasgow’s Dumfries Campus and consulting editor of the report; and Richard Meade Marie Curie Head of Policy & Public Affairs Scotland.

There are a number of notable commitments within the framework, which will help support Marie Curie in its work in Scotland and there should be plenty of opportunities for the charity to get involved over the next five years.

In particular the framework sets out a commitment for the Scottish Government to produce commissioning guidelines to support the new Integration Joint Boards for health and social care in delivering palliative care services. Boards will go live in April 2016, and they will take responsibility for commissioning all palliative care services in community and acute settings. These guidelines will therefore be a vital tool for them and Marie Curie will look to shape and influence them as they are developed.

Strong research presence

The framework has also led to the establishment of a new Research Forum for Scotland on Palliative and End of Life Care. Marie Curie’s strong research presence in Scotland means that we will be heavily involved in the forum and our hospice researchers are already exploring opportunities to work in partnership with new collaborators and engage with that forum – this will be supported by our recent £1.4million call for research.

We have frequently talked about the need to challenge the ‘taboo’ around dying, death and bereavement in Scotland. A commitment to commissioning work to facilitate greater public and personal discussion is very welcome and we hope will lead to more open and honest conversations.

If the Scottish Government is to be successful in its aim of ensuring that everyone gets the palliative care they need by 2021, then it will need the support of the NHS, Local authorities, the third and independent sectors. Marie Curie will play a huge part in this framework over the next five years and it will be an exciting time for the development of palliative and end of life care in Scotland.