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I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate and congratulate my colleague Linda Fabiani on bringing it forward. What a fabulous opening speech she made—and what a wonderful celebration of the Marie Curie volunteers. The great daffodil appeal is one of the most iconic and recognised fundraising drives of the year. I echo Ms Fabiani’s support for Richard Meade and the Marie Curie charity.
People all over Scotland wear their yellow daffodil with a sense of pride, to signify that they will donate money to support Marie Curie to deliver its world-class palliative care services in our communities and our hospices. The appeal enables the public to support Marie Curie’s research, nurses, community workers and its campaigning, which support the information and services that it provides to families whose loved ones are in, or require, palliative care.
As a registered nurse—although I am a surgical nurse, not a palliative care nurse—and deputy convener of the Health and Sport Committee, I have a keen interest in our care sector and I feel passionately about ensuring that we equip the sector and our population for years to come. Across Scotland and internationally we are seeing populations ageing better, living longer lives and generally becoming healthier. Although that is welcome, it presents challenges: with age comes a greater risk of health complications and a greater need for social care support and services.
The Health and Sport Committee has just commenced an inquiry into social care. I look forward to the inquiry providing information about end-of-life care, in particular. The evidence suggests that there must be an onus on healthcare professionals to have realistic conversations with people about their wishes in relation to their future care needs. That is realistic medicine and such an approach is essential if we are to support people to stay at home or in a homely environment and have care that is suited to their needs.
Marie Curie is at the forefront of pioneering research in Scotland. One of the charity’s most recent publications, which was produced jointly with the University of Edinburgh, suggests that, by 2040, 66 per cent or two-thirds of deaths in Scotland will take place at home, in a care home or in a hospice. It is essential that more people have the opportunity to die in a place of their choosing and that we meet those future care needs.
In 2018-19, in the NHS Dumfries and Galloway area, which is part of my South Scotland region, the region’s 31 dedicated Marie Curie nurses made 4,359 visits to 542 people. Support from those competent professionals enabled 72.5 per cent of the patients who had palliative care needs to die in a place of their choosing. That is welcome.
I am pleased that Marie Curie has seven shops in south-west Scotland that raise funds for the charity. It also has 896 dedicated volunteers. There are shops in Dumfries, Newton Stewart, Stranraer, Ayr, Troon, Girvan and Kilmarnock. I thank each and every one of the folk who work in the shops for their efforts to make other people’s lives more comfortable and to support patients’ loved ones.
Issues to do with out-of-hours Marie Curie coverage in Wigtownshire have been brought to my attention. I have written to Marie Curie and NHS Dumfries and Galloway about the coverage and I hope to find a solution in due course.
I am proud that the Scottish Government has an ambitious vision, which is set out in the Government’s “Strategic Framework for Action on Palliative and End of Life Care”:
“By 2021, everyone in Scotland who needs palliative care will have access to it.”
It is great that progress is being made, with the support of Marie Curie and others in the sector. I look forward to hearing an update from the minister on recent progress.
I again congratulate Linda Fabiani on securing the debate and I congratulate everyone at Marie Curie on the fantastic work that they do.