The Scottish Government Palliative and End of Life Stakeholders Group had its first meeting in Glasgow on the 24th of March 2015, organised by the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care.
The purpose of this group is to contribute to and inform the ongoing development of the development of a national Strategic Framework for Action for palliative and end of life care in Scotland.
Although new to Scotland, with my several years of clinical experience in palliative care in India, research and teaching experience in end of life care and in my current role as a researcher at the Glasgow End of Life Studies Group, I am privileged to represent the University of Glasgow on the stakeholder group.
Diversity and expertise
There were a number of very encouraging features about the group and the meeting.
The members of the group were noticeably from diverse backgrounds relating to end of life care. Organisations involved in cancer support, in the care of people with dementia, in paediatric palliative care, a parent – all were represented in the stakeholder group. The group also includes specialists in social care, bereavement and spirituality.
The wide range of voices represented illustrates a comprehensive outlook to end of life care as the end of life strategy is being developed.
The discussions of the day were also encouraging: there were affirmations of ‘person-centred care’ and ‘dignity at the end of life’; voices of caution not to follow the narrow ‘medical’ model; calls for developing an openness about discussing the subject of death and making it everyone’s business; and recognition of the need for recognising the place of families and local communities in death and in end of life care.
I imagined sitting in a similar meeting in India.
The topics would have been access to pain relief and palliative care services, poverty and associated issues of affordability of treatment and a number of social and spiritual issues that surround the care of the dying in the Indian context.
The biggest difference, it seems to me, is that while much of the concern at the meeting was about the individuals’ choices and endeavours in meeting them, in India and a large number of other countries in the world it would still need to be at the level of the basics, starting with, for example, a fundamental need for relief from pain.
The subsequent meetings of the Scottish Government Palliative and End of Life Stakeholders Group will focus on specific issues with reference to the development of the end of life care strategy for Scotland.
For me, this will be a wonderful learning experience as well as an opportunity to make a real contribution to discussions and policy development in Scotland.