Barriers to palliative care must be removed, finds committee inquiry

25.11.2015

Everyone in Scotland should have a right to palliative care according to an inquiry into the issue by the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee.

The Committee’s inquiry found that according to projections based on UK data there are over 10,000 people in Scotland who are not getting the care that they need.  MSPs have called for the forthcoming Scottish Government Strategic Framework to set out how palliative care can be accessed at the point of need.  

During the course of the Committee’s inquiry, MSPs heard that palliative care is more readily available for those with a diagnosis of cancer and that people with non-malignant conditions and those who experience homelessness, or who have learning disabilities are less likely to access the care that they need at the end of their lives.  

The Committee also heard that support and help is not always available to families supporting those at the end of life when they need it and that 24/7 access must be made available to those providing care at home. 

Convener of the Committee Duncan McNeil MSP said: 

“Our Committee came to a firm conclusion that everyone who needs it should be able to access high quality, person-centred palliative care. We heard that this is not happening on a consistent basis and that people across Scotland have a different experience depending on where they live, their age and their condition.  

“Conversations around death and dying are never easy. But palliative care is about giving people the best quality of life regardless of how long that may be for.   

“This report is not about policy in isolation but people. The provision of good quality palliative care affects us all whether as parents, children, or as carers of loved ones. It’s important that change comes as a result of this inquiry and more work is undertaken by the Scottish Government to find out why people are not getting the care they need.” 

The Committee’s report also found that there was a lack of clear definition for palliative care and that this type of care wasn’t being provided for only in hospices but in generalist settings and by other health and social care professionals.  

Deputy Convener of the Committee Bob Doris MSP said:  

“Our Committee heard that the UK ranks top in all key studies of palliative care development around the world in relation to the organisation and delivery of palliative care. However the Committee recognises that there is always room for improvement and the collection of robust data can help measure the effectiveness and quality of the care being provided. 

”As our population ages and more people need palliative and end of life care, it is vital we look beyond just the specialist settings and take a more comprehensive look at where care is being provided to ensure the right care is delivered at the right time and in the right setting.   

“The Committee welcomes the commitment of the Scottish Government to bring forward a framework for the delivery of high quality palliative care and we hope that the new framework will build on the committee’s findings.”

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