Spotlight on Argyll and Bute end of life care services

Event speakers (from left to right): Jennifer Dryden, Diana Hekerem, Pat Tyrell, Michael Russell MSP, Christina West, Brenda Johnston, Sheila McKechnie, Lynne Miller, Niall Kieran, Morag MacLean, and Hilary Brown. (Photo credit: Kevin McGlynn)
Event speakers (from left to right): Jennifer Dryden, Diana Hekerem, Pat Tyrell, Michael Russell MSP, Christina West, Brenda Johnston, Sheila McKechnie, Lynne Miller, Niall Kieran, Morag MacLean, and Hilary Brown. (Photo credit: Kevin McGlynn)

An event in Oban last week celebrated improvements to palliative and end-of-life care for people living in Argyll and Bute.

Since 2012 the Marie Curie Delivering Choice Programme, through the Reshaping Care for Older People fund, has been working in collaboration with the Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership and local public, independent and voluntary partners to improve palliative and end of life care for the people of Argyll and Bute. It’s estimated there are over 750 people locally who needed palliative care in 2014.

By reviewing existing services, consulting with local providers and putting in place new initiatives the Programme and partners have been able to address gaps and suggest improvements to services. These initiatives will now be taken forward by the Palliative Care Development Steering Group, led by Hilary Brown, Associate Lead Nurse for Argyll and Bute.

The Programme has been essential to begin to address the challenges of an ageing and rural population. The population of Argyll and Bute is expected to see an increase of 75 per cent in those aged 75 and over by 2037, and three quarters of the population live in remote small towns or rural areas.

A new volunteer service is also being explored which will be piloted in partnership with existing voluntary organisations. The Remote and Rural Helper service in Argyll and Bute will provide companionship, emotional and practical support for people living with a terminal illness and their families.

As part of the Programme six projects were implemented which have resulted in:

* The development of a locally coordinated Marie Curie Nursing Service which has supported more patients before they reached a crisis point, improved patient equity and cared for more people with a non-malignant diagnosis.

* Carer training sessions in Oban, Lorn and the Isles, in partnership with North Argyll Carers Centre, NHS Highland and Alzheimer Scotland. These addressed the various palliative care issues faced by informal carers, who may already be looking after a friend or family member with palliative care needs, or may have to in the future as their loved one’s illness progresses.

* Training with 84 members of care home staff in Cowal in partnership with local Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialists, identified palliative care champions and provided guidance on out of hours support and standard palliative care processes.

* Encouraging individuals and communities to have open conversations about death and dying through the Health Promoting Palliative Care project. Not talking openly about these issues can negatively affect individuals, carers and families. Three events were held in Argyll and Bute as part of Dying Matters Week. A photo exhibition was also on display around the region during the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care’s ‘To Absent Friends’ festival.

* Promotion of a ‘Start the Conversation’ campaign encouraging people to set-up a Power of Attorney.

* The creation of a patient and carer information booklet on transport and funding for medical and social appointments.

Speaking ahead of the event on Friday, February 12, Michael Russell MSP said: “I was delighted to be at the launch of the Delivering Choice Programme and I believe it has offered a significant improvement in the provision of palliative and end of life care in Argyll and Bute and has embedded good practice in that vital area.”

Co-host for the event, Christina West, Chief Officer Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “I am delighted by the success of this Programme which in no small part was due to all partners involved putting people at the heart of the process. We have been able to bring together local teams to work together as a single health and social care team focussing on particular outcomes.

“This truly is an example of the benefits for local people of integrated working.”

Diana Hekerem, Marie Curie Divisional Service Development Manager, said: “We’ve had fantastic feedback from residents who have benefitted from the Programme. Its success has only been possible thanks to the enthusiasm and support of local providers working together and with the groundwork now laid we hope the partnership will go from strength to strength.

“Marie Curie continues to be committed to supporting people living with a terminal illness in Argyll and Bute, whether that’s hands on care through our Nursing Service or support and advice through our support services and we hope soon, our planned volunteer Helper service.”