Palliative and end of life care: strategic framework for action

This framework sets out a vision for the next five years, outcomes and ten commitments to support improvements in the delivery of palliative and end of life care across Scotland.

Annex B: Definitions of Palliative Care

The World Health Organisation has produced two definitions of palliative care, in 1990[1] and in 2002.[2] There is also a WHO definition of children’s palliative care.[3]

In 2015 the WHO stated:

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients (adults and children) and their families who are facing problems associated with life-threatening illness. It prevents and relieves suffering through the early identification, correct assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, whether physical, psychosocial or spiritual.

Addressing suffering involves taking care of issues beyond physical symptoms. Palliative care uses a team approach to support patients and their caregivers. This includes addressing practical needs and providing bereavement counselling. It offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death.

Palliative care is explicitly recognised under the human right to health. It should be provided through person-centred and integrated health services that pay special attention to the specific needs and preferences of individuals.[4]

The Scottish Government endorses this description of palliative care.

There is also a need to settle on an appropriate definition of end of life care, a term which is so often linked to palliative care. Here there is no authoritative wording which can be adopted. The following definition is recommended for use as part of the implementation of commitments within the Strategic Framework for Action.

End of life care addresses the medical, social, emotional, spiritual and accommodation needs of people thought to have less than one year to live. It includes a range of health and social services and disease specific interventions as well as palliative and hospice care for those with advanced conditions who are nearing the end of life.[5]


Email: Janice Birrell

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