Calls from an isles GP for terminally ill patients to have the right to die at home has been backed by doctors from throughout Scotland.
Susan Bowie, who serves at the Hillswick practice, previously raised her concerns about the gap in “hospital at home care” for patients enduring the last few days of their lives with MSP David Stewart.
Now, Mr Stewart – Scottish Labour’s shadow public health minister – says he has has received reports from other concerned doctors.
Last month Dr Bowie argued many people who wanted to end their days in their own homes were unable to fulfill their dying wish because of a lack of round-the-clock care.
Now, a parliamentary motion for debate by Mr Stewart has been supported by Green, Independent, Labour, Tory and SNP MSPs.
Isles MSP Beatrice Wishart also intends to give the motion her backing.
Mr Stewart said: “This affects many patients and families across the country and I am delighted that other MSPs have now supported the debate on this important subject.
“I know that constituents have been lobbying other parties to add to the debate and it’s not too late for other MSPs to sign up.”
Meanwhile, Dr Bowie has contested information from NHS Shetland which states that there are currently carers and nurses available during the daytime, at weekends and evenings who do support people to die at home and nurses are also on call overnight.
“Shetland patients dying at home don’t have access to overnight carers, and there is only one district nurse for the whole of the mainland, and they can’t be there all night with a patient. There is also no cover at short notice at weekends.”
NHS Shetland’s interim chief executive, Simon Bokor Ingram, said figures from ISD Scotland (Information Services Division) showed Shetland had the highest percentage in Scotland – 94 per cent – when it came to the last six months of life spent at home.
One GP explained: “What you are describing has been the status quo here for so long that people no longer expect to die at home and choose the community hospital because they are afraid of the lack of support at home. We do occasionally achieve a well-supported death at home, but usually because of extraordinary family commitment.”
Mr Stewart’s motion states that “the parliament understands that 70 per cent of the population in Scotland wish to die at home; notes that many Highlands and Islands-based GPs are trained in palliative care that can support those who wish to die at home; believes however that not all areas of the region have charities or carers who provide ‘hospital at home care’, especially overnight, and notes the calls for there to be an automatic right for people to have full care at home day or night for their last few days of life, so that then can have their wish fulfilled by being able to die at home with suitable palliative care.”