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Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th March 2016.

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Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I congratulate Linda Fabiani on once again lodging a motion in support of Marie Curie’s work.

Like Linda Fabiani, I applaud the work of all the volunteers and staff who make such an indispensable and invaluable contribution in the care that they provide. In particular, I endorse and applaud the great daffodil appeal, which is in its 30th year. All over the country, volunteers and fundraising groups are getting behind the daff, using the hashtag #getbehindthedaff to raise awareness on social media. They are taking lots of practical actions too, such as bake sales and quizzes, and dressing up, down or daft for the day. Let us praise them and celebrate their work, as well as that of the volunteers in the helper support project to which Linda Fabiani referred, and the volunteers and staff who work in the many Marie Curie shops. I was pleased, on make a difference day, to work for a day in the shop at Goldenacre in my constituency.

Of course, we also celebrate and acknowledge the work of Marie Curie’s dedicated, motivated and amazingly caring staff. There are two great hospices: one in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow. I know that the one in Edinburgh had 480 admissions last year. Increasingly, however, Marie Curie is working in the community. We are told that 4,700 patients throughout Scotland were supported in the community last year; in Lothian, there were 4,152 community nurse visits and 2,237 clinical nurse specialist visits.

The motion refers to the collaborative work between health boards, local authorities and the third sector, which is increasingly important as more work is done in the community. I hope that the new integration joint boards, which now have responsibility for palliative care, will recognise the vital role of the third sector in that area and in many other areas of work in the community.

The hallmarks of Marie Curie care are that it is holistic and patient centred, and—most important—that the services respond to patients’ choices. I was pleased to see that 95 per cent of patients in Lothian last year were able to die in their place of choice.

The quality of care is central, and the participation of many staff in the research facilitator scheme is a way of enhancing quality and ensuring that staff understand even better patients’ needs and the nature of quality care.

There are other facets of the work. Linda Fabiani referred to the information and support service, and we should also acknowledge Marie Curie’s contribution to policy. Marie Curie has produced important reports such as “Changing the conversation: Care and support for people with a terminal illness now and in the future” and “Triggers for palliative care: Improving access to care for people with diseases other than cancer”, which highlighted discrepancies in provision and the fact that many different groups did not access the palliative care that they needed.

In particular, during the Health and Sport Committee’s inquiry into palliative care, we found out that people with a terminal illness other than cancer often lost out. It was important that Marie Curie’s research fed into the Government’s policy document—the strategic framework for action to which Linda Fabiani referred—as well as the Health and Sport Committee’s report.

Marie Curie has also campaigned on benefits. The Scottish Government has committed to fast-tracking benefits for people who are living with a terminal illness, but Marie Curie is concerned that the carers allowance also needs to be fast-tracked for people who are caring for someone with a terminal illness. I do not think that such a commitment has been made. It is probably difficult for the Minister for Public Health to make such a commitment, but I am sure that she will pass the message on to the responsible minister.

My time is nearly up. I apologise for not being able to go to the reception; I have a very important constituency meeting in west Granton, where the community centre is threatened with closure. I hope that I will be able to stay until the end of the debate, although if there is a large number of speakers perhaps the Presiding Officer will forgive me if I leave slightly early.