Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Who needs palliative care?

We might think that palliative care is for those with a terminal illness, during their last months of life; however according to the Palliative Care Bill currently discussed in Holyrood, palliative care is not just for cancer patients, or terminally ill people. This Bill proposes that palliative care be given for everyone with a progressive life-limiting condition as well as their families. This is a step in the right direction because the Bill recognises that palliative care is not just for people at the end of their life, but also for those with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, heart failure, or Parkinson’s. These type of progressive illnesses are very stressful on the patient and on the whole family.

The main thrust of the Bill focuses on the delivery of care within a hospital environment. In all fairness, palliative care in Scotland has been delivered through churches, charitable organisations and hospices. It must therefore be recognised that palliative care can be delivered not just in hospitals, but in hospices, churches, GP practices and in the home. The Church of Scotland has a long tradition in providing spiritual help to patients and families afflicted by progressive and life limiting illnesses and has been actively involved throughout the consultation processes of the Bill.

Integrated palliative care is not just about alleviating physical conditions; it should also involve spiritual, psychological and social elements. This type of integrated care requires resources beyond currently available charitable funding. Throughout the consultation processes, the Kirk has pushed for a clear financial commitment in support of integrated palliative care. In the current economic climate, a Bill without a carefully considered financial commitment will become just idle, empty words

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