Scotland’s opportunity to lead the way in living and dying well

by Richard Meade
Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Scotland

Richard-MeadeMarie Curie and the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care (SPPC) are calling for a new strategy to ensure that everyone in Scotland has the chance to live and die well.

On the 5 February 2014, Marie Curie organised a seminar with the SPPC to discuss the future of palliative care, end of life care and all related issues. Professionals involved in palliative and end of life care from across the health, social care and voluntary sectors came together with MSPs. The aim was to discuss successes to date, challenges for the future and to work together to find a consensus on how we move forward.

The challenges ahead

Today, during Dying Matters Awareness Week, we have published a report of our findings and have called for the Scottish Government to produce a new strategy to take us forward.

It has been nearly six years since the launch of the Scottish Government’s first national action plan for palliative and end of life care, Living and Dying Well. This strategy has helped us achieve a great deal in Scotland including national end of life care indicators, as well as support for initiatives like Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief, but there are challenges still remaining. With new national government strategies and new legislation for health and social care this document is now out of date.

We have real concerns with how some people in Scotland are currently experiencing end of life. Four out of five non-cancer patients who might need palliative care are not getting it, which can have an impact on the healthcare and emotional support they are getting in their last months of life. Many carers of those that are at the end of life go unidentified and unsupported, which is causing them and those they are caring for great distress. There is also not enough bereavement support for people suffering from a recent loss, which can have a direct effect on their mental health. As a society we continue to struggle to talk about death and dying and all that goes with it. This can leave important conversations about wishes, needs, support and care left unsaid.

A new strategy

We believe that we now need a new strategy and one that must go beyond the previous one in capturing a societal response to how we deal with the end of life.

The Scottish Government has recognised and committed to the idea of a new framework for action, but we now need them to act and to ensure that the framework they produce includes our recommendations. This will ensure that everyone is getting the help, care and support they need at the end of life. This must happen sooner rather than later.

We only get one chance to get a person’s care at the end of life right. Getting this right for everyone should be our ambition and at the heart of any new strategy.