'Joined-up' plan for palliative care across all health departments

Patient care file picture Image copyright Thinkstock

A new five-year plan for a "joined-up" approach to palliative care has been unveiled by the Scottish government.

Ministers said the £3.5m plan should ensure everyone with a terminal illness gets access to good quality care across all health departments.

People should also have an opportunity to discuss their dying wishes before their condition deteriorates.

Staff across NHS and social care departments will be given extra training under the new scheme.

A recent study by the London School of Economics suggested thousands of people were not receiving the proper care.

'Urgent overhaul'

The report for the Marie Curie charity said the system needed an "urgent overhaul".

Professor David Clark, from the University of Glasgow, published a study last year which indicated one in three people in hospital are in the last year of their life.

He said: "Palliative care should be everybody's business.

"In our new hospitals the average length of stay is just 4.4 days.

"People are whirling in and out of hospital but we know a third of them are in their last year of life.

"We're not finding the opportunities to talk to them about it."

The ageing population could lead to an increase in the number of people dying over the next 20 to 30 years, and the merging of health and social care in Scotland gives the government the opportunity to improve care for those who are in the final years of their lives.

New guidance

Earlier this week, new guidance was issued in England on a system of caring for the dying, to replace the Liverpool Care Pathway which was being used inappropriately.

The Scottish government had already announced that it would be phased out in Scotland.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "Many people will have gone through the extremely sad process of looking after a loved one towards the end of their lives.

"This will always be a difficult experience, but our health and social care services have a crucial role to play in making it as dignified as possible, and ensuring that the patient's wishes and needs are taken into account."

"Through this new framework we want to make sure that everyone receives high quality palliative care - tailored to their own symptoms and life circumstances.

"This should be delivered to the same high standards, regardless of where you live, or what your illness is."

Katherine Crawford, Scotland director of Parkinson's UK said welcomed the Scottish government's commitment to deliver high quality palliative and end of life care.

She said: "More than 800 people will die with advanced Parkinson's in Scotland this year, and we know that too many of them will miss out on the care they need as they reach the end of life.

"Research tells us that people with the most advanced Parkinson's can have quality of life that is poorer than terminal cancer and motor neurone disease.

"Yet symptoms like severe pain can go largely unmanaged, and 15 minute homecare visits provide little time to provide holistic support to people who are reaching the end of their life."

Macmillan's senior development manager Trisha Hatt said: "Macmillan will work with health and social care services on these recommendations, particularly on the key elements of education and training for staff.

"We need a Cancer Plan for Scotland to take forward these proposals to ensure everyone affected by cancer gets appropriate palliative care if they need it"

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