A new five-year plan to put palliative care at the heart of the NHS in Scotland has been unveiled by ministers in the wake of calls for a major overhaul of the system.
Care for the dying has been given a £3.5 million boost by the Scottish Government to widen access to treatment, regardless of diagnosis, age or background.
The new strategy will see greater training for staff across health and social care on how to support patients and their families. Scotland needs a new openness around death and dying, said health secretary Shona Robison.
She 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.”
Co-author Professor David Clark, a Wellcome Trust investigator at Glasgow University, published a study last year which indicated one in three people in hospital are in the last year of their lives yet there was little discussion of their dying wishes.
He added: “I am confident it will lead to widespread improvement in one of the most challenging issues of the day – how we care for people at the end of life.”
Campaigners welcomed the commitment to improving end-of-life care in the face of the ageing population and plans to integrate health and social care services next year.
Katherine Crawford, Scotland director of Parkinson’s UK, said: “More than 800 people will die with advanced Parkinson’s in Scotland this year, and we know too many of them will miss out on the care they need as they reach the end of life.
“We hope that this Scottish Government commitment will enable people dying with Parkinson’s to get access to the best possible care wherever they are – in hospitals, care homes or at home.”
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.”