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New guidelines on palliative care in Scotland published

Supported by Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care, the updated guidelines reflect expert opinion about good practice in the management of adult patients at the end of life. The guidelines provide practical, evidence-based or best practice guidance on a range of common clinical issues including pain management, symptom control, palliative care emergencies, end of life care and use of medicines.

The new guidelines have been developed by a range of healthcare professionals from community, hospital and specialist palliative care services throughout Scotland and a key feature is the concerns and expectations not only of the patient but also their family and informal carers when providing palliative care. The guidelines involve a wider assessment of the patient to include psychological, social and spiritual needs as well as any physical symptoms that may be present.

Speaking of the new guidelines, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Mr Alex Neil said: “Palliative care is an extremely important and sensitive area, and it’s essential that healthcare workers have all the support and guidance they need. These new guidelines give clear and practical advice to practitioners about how best to treat patients who have life limiting conditions or who may be approaching the end of their lives. They are designed to be helpful to both generalist and specialist staff who provide palliative care. A lot of work has been done with stakeholders to ensure that they are robust and measures have been put in place to ensure that they continue to be fit for purpose in the future.”

Healthcare Improvement Scotland Interim Director of Evidence and Technologies Sara Twaddle said: “Good palliative care is not just about supporting someone in the last stages of life, but about enhancing the quality of life for both patients and families at every stage of the disease process from diagnosis onwards. These guidelines, which have been developed in partnership with healthcare professionals from across Scotland, reflect a consensus of opinion about best practice and will enhance the quality of life for patients and their families.”

Mark Hazelwood, Director of the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care, said: “There may be only one chance to get care right for someone who is approaching the end of their natural life. These guidelines are a great resource for health and social care staff who are doing their utmost to provide great care in those circumstances.”

This guidance is complementary to Scottish Government Interim Guidance: Caring for people in the last days and hours of life.
The new guidelines can be viewed at

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