Scottish Parliament launches much-needed inquiry into palliative care

Image © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body – 2015. Licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0.

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee launched an inquiry into palliative care in Scotland.

This is a much-needed inquiry, which Marie Curie has been calling for, and will play a crucial role in supporting a range of palliative care activity that is currently going on in Scotland.

The Scottish Government is in the process of developing a new strategic framework for action for palliative care to help improve access to services and increase quality. The new joint health and social care boards that have recently launched in Scotland will be responsible for delivering palliative care across acute and community settings and are currently developing their strategies for this. The inquiry should inform this work by flagging up challenges and gaps as well as identifying solutions and recommendations.

The launch was made at the Marie Curie Hospice, Glasgow and the Convener of the Committee, Duncan McNeil MSP, told Marie Curie staff that the inquiry would “shine a light on access to palliative care in Scotland and what more can be done to improve care for people at the end of their lives.”

The inquiry will look at a number of issues including:

  • experience of and access to palliative care
  • what the future priorities should be?
  • the right time to begin discussing options for palliative care and when and where these should take place
  • the role of anticipatory care plans in supporting palliative care discussions and how their uptake can be improved
  • how information about palliative care should be made available to patients and their family
  • what training and support is provided to health and care staff on discussing palliative care with patients and families
  • the challenges in recording and documenting palliative care priorities and how well those priorities are communicated between different health and care providers

We know that there are thousands of people in Scotland missing out on palliative care, whether that’s because they have a terminal condition other than cancer, such as dementia, they live on their own, are aged over 85, or from a deprived area. For those that do get palliative care far too many of them get it much too late and often only in the last few weeks of life.

With Scotland’s ageing population more and more people will be dying each year and many with numerous conditions. We need to get this right now.

With this inquiry, the Government’s proposed framework and integration of health and social care there has never been a better chance to shape the future of palliative care in Scotland.