Palliative care - need for legislation questioned

29/11/2010

Improvements to the delivery of palliative care services should be pursued, but the need for legislation has been questioned, according to a Parliament committee report published today.

The Health and Sport Committee said it shared the desire of Gil Paterson MSP, who introduced the Bill, to deliver improvements in care. However, most members agreed that driving change through primary legislation could have unintended consequences.

The majority of the Health and Sport Committee agreed in a Stage 1 report that the general principles of the Palliative Care (Scotland) Bill should not be recommended to Parliament.

Christine Grahame MSP, Committee Convener, said:
“Introducing a specific statutory duty to provide palliative care, rigidly defined in legislation, could lead to a loss of flexibility in service provision.

“However, the Bill has sparked a very important debate about the future of palliative care in Scotland. We expect the Scottish Government to build on progress already being made through its existing Living and Dying Well action plan for palliative care and have asked for indicators to be established by 31 March 2011 to allow its impact to be assessed.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • The Bill did not establish a simple and unambiguous definition of palliative care;
  • The collation and publication of data on palliative and end of life care does not require primary legislation. Instead, this should be monitored through Living and Dying Well, which was launched in 2008;
  • The Bill’s proposals could prove more costly than predicted;
  • The Bill could lead to demands for other treatment areas to be given the same status as palliative care within the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978.

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