29 August 2008
The Scottish Government is to publish a national plan to improve services for the terminally ill, following an Audit Scotland report that calls for a more consistent approach to palliative care.
In a report, Review of palliative care services in Scotland, published last week, the public spending watchdog said there was a 'significant variation' in the availability of specialist palliative care services and in the way patients with complex needs could access these.
'People with a range of conditions need specialist palliative care, but it remains primarily cancer-focused,' the report stated.
The plan for palliative care is due to be published in October. Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the initiative would provide better care outside Scotland's central belt.
She added: 'There are many examples of NHS boards and the voluntary sector working together to improve services. This is a process that is already under way, but there's no doubt we have to accelerate that progress.'
The report said there were different models for delivering palliative care, with specialist services varying from board to board. 'This means that some patients will find it more difficult than others to access specialist care, particularly those in remote and rural areas,' the report stated.
Deputy auditor general Caroline Gardner said: 'More than 55,000 people die in Scotland each year. Palliative care should be an integral part of the support given to patients and their families and carers during the last months, days and hours of their lives.
'In many areas of Scotland, the voluntary sector and the health service provide excellent and much-appreciated care. But access to good-quality palliative care varies across the country. The Scottish Government needs to address these issues.'
The report found that about £59m was spent on specialist palliative care in 2006/07 but said the total cost, including generalist care, was unknown.