As Hospice UK launches a new report, The Future of Hospice Care in Scotland, Helen Malo, our Policy Manager, looks at how Scotland’s hospice and palliative care sector can emerge stronger from the pandemic to become a catalyst for change in the country’s health and care sector.
While there are many similarities between the four nations of the UK in terms of health systems and the populations they serve, there are also distinct trends, challenges and opportunities in each country.
In Scotland, we are witnessing a growing need for palliative care alongside a rising number of people dying at home. The pandemic accelerated these trends, but even as the death toll from COVID-19 recedes, the strain of these seismic changes will remain for years to come.
It is evident there has never been a greater need for better hospice and end of life care, yet despite an estimated 75-95% of people who die in Scotland each year needing palliative care, one in four are still missing out.
Throughout the pandemic, hospices stepped up to provide vital support to the NHS and work collaboratively with community health and social care services to reach people in need, illustrating the vital role the sector can play to support those at the end of life. This blueprint of joined-up working, with hospices as equal partners in the system, must be the way forward.
With the new Scottish Government now in place, and a promise from Scottish leaders for a new palliative care strategy, Hospice UK is working with decision makers and care providers alike to ensure everyone gets the right care in the right place and at the right time, particularly in the community.
Hospice UK’s new report, The Future of Hospice Care in Scotland, sets out how hospices are responding to meet Scotland’s growing need for palliative care and emphasises the support that needs to be in place to underpin and enable the sector to be a catalyst for change.
Hospices are already adapting their services to better meet the needs of their local communities. They are strengthening partnership working with other services, especially GPs, social care, district nursing, out of hours, acute care and care homes, to reach more people at the end of life and tackle inequalities in the care people receive.
They are developing their community services, such as rapid response services, virtual wards and increased out of hours support, to meet increased need in the community and support people who wish to stay at home.
And hospices are doing more to support families and carers, as well as building the capacity and resilience of local communities so that they can develop their own solutions to supporting people at the end of life.
By involving the hospice sector more fully in the planning and delivery of services, hospices can reduce the pressure on statutory services, supporting people to stay in their own homes and avoid unnecessary and costly admissions to hospital.
But to achieve our vision of a fully joined-up, seamless system in end of life care, we must ensure hospices have the right support and backing, with the right workforce in place for the future, and a sustainable funding solution that reduces the current reliance on charitable giving.
The pandemic has shown what hospices can deliver for Scotland – now it’s time for us all to back them to do so.