An overview of the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care conference

by Richard Meade
Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Scotland

Richard Meade. Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Scotland

A packed agenda addressing many of the sector’s most challenging and current issues was in store for the 200 attendees at the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care (SPPC) conference, which took place at the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh on Wednesday.

A central theme was the importance of a person-centred approach to improve care for terminally ill people and those at the end of life. This marks a move away from a ‘one size fits all’ model and stresses the need to focus on the five key elements of the ‘Must Do With Me’ approach.

Delegates welcomed the launch of the new national Palliative Care Guidelines for Scotland. Publically available online from October, it is hoped they will be widely implemented by healthcare practitioners. A mobile/tablet app will make access even easier.

Civil servants were well represented at the conference, despite over 85% of those present believing that palliative and end of life care is not seen as a high enough government priority. Professor Jason Leitch, the Clinical Director of the Scottish Government's Quality Unit, deliverd a keynote speech while Professor Craig White, the National Clinical Lead for Palliative Care, also made contribution.

Professor Leitch talked about how improvements in science can make NHS Scotland safer and more compassionate. He used the aviation industry’s safety record as an example of good practice and suggested that healthcare could learn much from the industry to improve safety. This included the idea of using real-time feedback to inform safety and compassion, something that Marie Curie also advocates.

Professor White reiterated the Government’s commitment to developing a new strategic framework for action for palliative and end of life care, something that Marie Curie and the SPPC have been calling for and which has been approved by the Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson.

The conference concluded with a thoughtful reflection on palliative care, death and dying during World War One by Dr Sally Lawton. In some ways it highlighted how far we have come in care at the end of life, but also how some things have stayed the same. As we acknowledge the centenary of the start of the war it was a fascinating conclusion to the event.