Palliative Care

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The Palliative Care (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 1 June 2010 by Gil Paterson MSP.

Over 55,000 people die in Scotland each year….

The Palliative Care (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 1 June 2010 by Gil Paterson MSP.

Over 55,000 people die in Scotland each year.  The Bill seeks to give legislative effect to the Scottish Government’s intentions in Living and Dying Well: a national action plan for palliative and end of life care in Scotland (“the Living and Dying Well strategy”) which aims “to ensure that good palliative and end of life care is available for all patients and families who need it in a consistent, comprehensive, appropriate manner across all care settings in Scotland.”

One of the Bill’s objectives is to raise the priority of palliative care services by creating a specific duty on the Scottish Ministers to provide or secure palliative care for all persons diagnosed with a life-limiting condition and their family members according to their reasonable needs. The Bill also sets up reporting arrangements which require the Scottish Ministers to report annually on the provision of palliative care so that the quality of care provided can be monitored.

It is also a key feature of the Living and Dying Well strategy that where appropriate, palliative care will be delivered in the community. To deliver the strategy and thereby the Bill, the focus is likely to be on enabling generalists to deliver palliative care. As well as controlling pain palliative care focuses on other symptoms. It applies a holistic approach to meeting the physical, practical, social, emotional and spiritual needs of patients and their families facing progressive illness and bereavement.

At present there is a wide variation in the provision of palliative care across Scotland, whether due to differing priorities, funding or staffing shortages, or the criteria used to determine individuals’ need for such care. “Life-limiting condition” is defined as a condition, illness or disease which is progressive and fatal and the progress of which cannot be reversed by treatment.

“Palliative care” is defined as treatment which controls and relieves pain, discomfort or other symptoms caused by or related to a life-limiting condition with the intention of improving quality of life; it includes psychological, social or spiritual help and support, including for example the provision of stress management courses, access to a hospital chaplaincy services or the provision of bereavement counselling.

“Family members” include parents, children and grandparents as well as uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, great aunts and great uncles and spouses. “Civil partners” and “cohabitants” are also included.

It is expected that comprehensive, coordinated, cohesive and consistent delivery of palliative care as required by the Living and Dying Well strategy will deliver benefits to those in receipt of such care, as well as benefiting the public purse.