Marie Curie is a household name, and rightly so. Its nurses and volunteers give people with a terminal illness choice and dignity at the end of life. This fantastic charity makes it possible for people faced with a terminal illness to have the choice to die peacefully, in their own home, surrounded by the people they love. We simply cannot put a price on the work that it does. In Scotland, in 2018-19, 7,595 people with a terminal illness were cared for at home by Marie Curie nurses, but the reality is that one in four people in Scotland are still missing out on palliative care at the end of their lives.
We are all living longer, and it is estimated that around 43,000 people die each year in Scotland needing palliative care—that is around 75 per cent of all deaths. Sadly, health inequalities exist, with people from deprived areas, people with a minority ethnic background, people who are socially isolated or live alone and people who identify as part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community being just some of the groups who are less likely to ask for help.
Everyone deserves a dignified death. Around 50 per cent of people in Scotland die in hospitals, but the majority of people would like to die at home, with the appropriate care. That is the care that Marie Curie offers: care that allows them and their families, despite a terminal diagnosis, to have the best quality of life.
The need for Marie Curie has never been greater, and that is why we should support the great daffodil appeal, which is Marie Curie’s biggest annual fundraising campaign. From wearing a daffodil pin to organising large gala dinners and small bake sales, there are countless ways for people to get involved.
In my constituency, Marie Curie fundraising groups in Bishopbriggs, Kirkintilloch, Lenzie and Bearsden do fantastic work. They are just some of the 85 groups in Scotland that organise collections and tea parties. Alongside that, they speak in schools, clubs, groups and associations in the local area, and they always welcome support from the local community to help them grow and increase the support that they give to Marie Curie. I want to give a huge shout-out to the amazing volunteers who do that incredible work. They are fantastic.
However, 11,000 people who need palliative care in Scotland each year cannot access it, and the charity needs to raise £15 million a year to support its services. It is calling on the Scottish Government to commit to a new national action plan for palliative care following 2021—one that is co-designed with key stakeholders, including all health and social care partnerships, practitioners and third sector organisations.
After international women’s day last Sunday, I would like to conclude by remembering the remarkable woman who made all this possible. Marie Curie was one of five children, born into a poor family in Poland in 1867. She had an insatiable appetite for learning and, through sheer determination, she entered Sorbonne University in Paris, where she read physics and mathematics. Her discovery of radium and polonium, for which she and her husband Pierre Curie won the Nobel prize, has saved millions of lives throughout the world. Indeed, next month sees the release of a new film about her life: “Radioactive”, starring Rosamund Pike, which I am sure will be fascinating. I think that, in it, we also learn the little-known fact that her daughter Irène was awarded the Nobel prize for chemistry for discovering that radioactive atoms could be created artificially.
Let us carry on these amazing women’s legacy by helping Marie Curie and its fantastic army of volunteers to care for more people. I urge everyone to get involved in the great daffodil appeal in any way that they can. Every daffodil counts.