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Scots end-of-life plan launched as part of innovative palliative care strategy

All nurses in Scotland are to receive training in end-of-life care as part of the country’s first palliative care strategy.

The training will be delivered as a national programme, which the Scottish Government hopes will equip all clinical staff in NHS Scotland with the skills and confidence to deliver its new £3m Living and Dying Well action plan.

The plan is ‘based on the principles of equality, dignity and quality’ and is intended to ensure good palliative care for all patients in an appropriate manner across all care settings, according to ministers. It will be concentrated mainly on community services.

Under the strategy, every terminally ill patient should be provided with a care plan – taking into account physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs – within two weeks of being identified as ‘in need’ by primary care services.

Additionally, NHS boards must ensure general practices provide ‘equitable, consistent and sustainable’ access to 24-hour community nursing for those wishing to die at home.

The Scottish plan follows the Department of Health’s End of Life Care strategy for England, published this summer (NT News, 22 July, p3).

Susan Munroe, Marie Curie Cancer Care director of nursing and patient services, said: ‘It’s so exciting that both countries now have end-of-life care clearly on the agenda and we would try to look for the positives in both.’

But Ms Munroe also highlighted differences between the two strategies.

‘In Scotland they are clearly trying to address the inequities in provision across the country – in England there is more emphasis on what a good PCT should be providing,’ she said.

She added: ‘Scotland is instructing health boards to make sure all nurses are trained and are making the health boards accountable but in England it’s what they recommend – what a good PCT should be commissioning.’

Ellen Hudson, RCN Scotland associate director, also welcomed the Scottish end-of-life initiative.

However, she added: ‘We urge decision-makers not to underestimate the educational investment required to ensure that all healthcare staff have the necessary skills and confidence to deliver end-of-life care with compassion and dignity.’

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