Palliative Care is a human right, a moral imperative and a global ethical responsibility. Palliative care is for people of all ages (from pre-natal palliative care through to old age) and is relevant across all diseases at all stages, not just at the end of life. Utilising impeccable assessment, palliative care takes a holistic approach to addressing the physical, spiritual and psychosocial needs of people living with life limiting or life-threatening conditions. Palliative care is ideally provided by a multidisciplinary team and aims to maintain or improve people’s quality of life.
European Palliative Care Day is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of palliative care and to highlight the need for increased access to palliative care services.
Palliative Care in Europe:
According to the EAPC Atlas of Palliative Care in Europe (available here) each year it is estimated that 4.4 million people will need palliative care. As populations age and the burden of non-communicable disease increases, the need for palliative care will grow. In 2014, the World Health Organization stated that palliative care is a moral imperative of health systems, and it should be integrated into all levels of health care as part of universal health coverage (WHA 67.19).
Unfortunately, due to disparities in the provision of and access to services, many people will not be able to access or receive palliative care. These inequities, result in the experience of preventable and unresolved suffering and reduced quality of life for patients with life-limiting conditions, such as cancer and other non-communicable diseases. Data also demonstrates that across Europe there is huge variation in the provision, quality and integration of palliative care into health services. Findings suggest that in many European countries palliative care is not included in national policy. In addition, issues remain regarding access to essential medicines used in palliative care, including strong opioids for the management of pain and other distressing symptoms. Another challenge which impacts on awareness and the quality of service, is that education and training in palliative care is not routinely included in healthcare workforce education and training programmes. These disparities mean that vulnerable people and their families who are living in Europe with a life-limiting illness are experiencing preventable and unresolved suffering.