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I, too, thank Linda Fabiani for lodging this motion on an issue that we discuss every year. Of course, this year is special, given that we are celebrating Marie Curie’s 30th anniversary of its great daffodil appeal.
At last week’s Scottish Conservative Party conference, where Marie Curie had a stall, Richard Meade of the organisation told my researcher of his disappointment at many members’ business debates in the Parliament being so badly attended and supported. I very much share that sentiment, and others in the chamber will no doubt agree. Mr Meade then went on to say that they are actually occasions when we do not have party political point scoring but demonstrate why we came into public life in the first place. I think that many members will agree that these debates are some of the most constructive and thoughtful that take place in the chamber—and, indeed, this particular debate is proving to be one such.
I take this opportunity to put on record my thanks to Richard Meade and his team for showcasing the work of Marie Curie to MSPs and the wider public. With a dedicated outfit who understand that cancer is not something that should be ignored or hidden away, Marie Curie is at the forefront of that important message.
Recently Marie Curie has been very active in highlighting the importance of palliative care and starting the conversation about it early in a patient’s journey through a non-curable health condition—not just cancer but long-term progressive conditions such as heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It has long promoted the need to speak openly about death and dying in an attempt to change the culture in this country, where such hugely important issues are swept under the carpet or ignored completely. As a highly respected organisation, it tends to be listened to, and it could have a big impact on changing attitudes to end-of-life issues.
I have often said that I am not a huge fan of badges and ribbons to mark different charities and their events—although I stress that that does not mean that I do not support such causes—but there are two whose emblems I do wear. The first is Poppyscotland’s red poppy in November, and the other is Marie Curie’s bright yellow daffodil at this time of year. Such simple and easily recognised emblems have a significant impact on people’s willingness to contribute to very worthwhile causes, and many people have benefited over the years as a result.
I support Marie Curie and wear the daffodil proudly because of the remarkable palliative care that it provides to people across the United Kingdom. In the north-east of Scotland, which I represent, people are now cared for in a way that I did not see when I was a young hospital doctor. Dedicated Marie Curie nurses now go into people’s homes, and they understand the needs of the thousands of people in Scotland who live with a terminal illness. They know how to support them and their families during such a stressful time, they comfort them and they often enable them to gain some enjoyment during their last days and to experience the good death to which we would all aspire.
Hospices in Edinburgh and Glasgow look after people from all walks of life, of all ages, from different backgrounds and of all creeds. Many of us will have seen at first hand in these hospices the dedication to loved ones shown by staff who provide not only the necessary medical care but an understanding of the emotional support that relatives and friends need in end-of-life situations.
In 2014-15, over 1,600 people in north-east Scotland alone benefited from almost 10,000 hours of care from community nurses; a total of 21 Marie Curie volunteers supported 54 people through the organisation’s helper service; and 85 per cent of Marie Curie patients in NHS Grampian and 90 per cent in Tayside were able to die in their place of choice. I think that we will agree that such a level of care is remarkable and outstanding.
My researcher tells me that Frank Sinatra had more farewell tours than anyone else in show business, and then he had umpteen comebacks. This is not my final speech, but I assure members that I will not be making any comebacks to this chamber as an MSP. However, one thing that I will be doing is retaining my connection with the cross-party group on cancer, which I am sure will mean my continued support for and involvement with Marie Curie. It is a charity that demonstrates the very best of the voluntary sector.