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Palliative Care (Homeless People)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th December 2019.

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Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government how it plans to extend access to palliative care services for homeless people. (S5O-03928)

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

Our strategic framework for action on palliative and end-of-life care makes it clear that we want everyone who would benefit from palliative care to have access to it, including people who are homeless.

To achieve that vision, it is essential that health and social care professionals have early planning conversations with people who are nearing the end of life to ensure that they get the care and support that is right for them. With that in mind, we have focused our efforts on supporting front-line health and social care services to engage more frequently and meaningfully with homeless individuals, so that they can access care and support services as quickly as possible.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

I chair the cross-party group on palliative care, which has suggested improvements including palliative care nurse specialists working with homelessness services, palliative care beds being provided specifically for homeless individuals and a range of other measures. Will the minister carefully consider the range of innovative suggestions that the CPG has made to improve the service that is provided to that highly excluded group?

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

I thank the cross-party group for its work. Its suggestions are a useful contribution to the discussion, and I will ensure that they are passed on to the homelessness prevention strategy group, which is co-chaired by the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning and a representative of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. It oversees the implementation of “Ending Homelessness Together: High Level Action Plan”, and includes a public health representative.

At its most recent meeting, on 10 December, the strategy group discussed the steps that could be taken to improve joint working between health and homelessness services. That is an appropriate area to focus on to ensure that we are getting that joined-up work in relation to the important issues that the member and the cross-party group have raised.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

Sadly, a rising number of homeless people are discharged from hospital with no home to go to. Previously, the Scottish Government has said that it has no plans to update research or to collate data on use of health services by homeless people. Will the Scottish Government reconsider that?

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

The data that Monica Lennon refers to was collated in 2018. The homelessness prevention strategy group has to consider how we can use that data to ensure that people get the support that they need when they need it. One of the first issues in that regard is ensuring that, when we are dealing with people who are in that situation, their housing needs are met. That is why the housing first model is important. People have complex needs: if they have a complex health need but nowhere to stay, that presents real difficulties. The housing first model is positive and provides us with a good opportunity to act. We are in the early days of implementation of that approach, and I know that various housing first models are used across the country. However, the anecdotal feedback that I have heard so far is generally positive.