CARE for people with terminal illness must be improved MSPs have been told.

While many health boards and hospices care for people with terminal cancer, it has been recognised there are difficulties for people with other illnesses and for young people.

MSPs on the Health Committee are investigating the current level and quality of palliative care in Scotland and are taking evidence this week from the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care.

After parliament rejected a Bill that would have legalised assisted suicide it was noted that there had to be improvements for people facing the end of their live due to illness.

The SPPC, which includes charity hospices Health boards and professional bodies has told the MSPs of gaps in the service.

Mark Hazelwood, Chief Executive, Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care is one of several giving evidence this week to the committee.

In a written submission to the committee the SPPC said there is “huge room” for improvement and access is variable across the country.

It said: “The type of condition someone has significantly influences where they are cared for, their referral pathways, who funds their support and accommodation, and therefore overall, the support they can access.

“People with cancer are much more likely to get the palliative care support they need than people with non-malignant conditions (including frail older people with multi-morbidities and dementia), and this applies both to specialist palliative care and generalist palliative care support.”

People living with social problems as well as their illness also have barriers to getting the right care.

The SPPC added: “Marginalised groups in society also tend to have worse access (e.g. people experiencing homelessness, prisoners, people with learning disabilities).”

SPPC said it is estimated that 40,000 people with palliative care needs die in Scotland each year.

However it said only around 11,800 people were on palliative care registers in General Practice.

Most people on these registers it said were added a relatively short time before they died and most of them had cancer.

Sandra Campbell, Macmillan Nurse Consultant for Cancer and Palliative Care with the Royal College of Nursing is giving the RCN opinion on palliative care.

RCN said there needs to be a focus on people who do not wish to be admitted to a hospice at the end of their life.

Its submission said: “Wherever possible, locally designed services must be able to meet the palliative care needs of those in their locality who choose to die at home.

“It is particularly important that the resources required to deliver more palliative care in the community are taken into account by integration authorities when considering the practical implementation of any proposed changes to end of life care provision.”