Education & Training in Palliative Care
In May 2014 WHO published its resolution entitled ‘Strengthening of palliative care as a component of comprehensive care throughout the life course’. It recognised that 40 million people require palliative care (PC) every year and that the avoidable suffering of treatable symptoms is perpetuated by the lack of knowledge of PC. Projections from the EU suggest that by 2050 the proportion of the European population over the age of 65 will rise from the current 17% to 28%. An ageing population is likely to lead to an increased number of patients with cancer and other chronic, incurable diseases, requiring increasing palliative care support at the end of life. These changes in health and demographic variables present a major challenge to national health care systems. The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance identified that in 2015 almost 18 million people worldwide died in unnecessary pain.
The provision of future care for the increased number of patients with palliative needs is unlikely to come from a parallel increase in the number of specialist acute and community PC teams. One approach is to ensure that during undergraduate training all those working in the field have an appropriate opportunity to learn PC. However, this is an area that has traditionally received little or no attention within existing curricula. Recent data have highlighted great variability as to the presence of mandatory training in palliative care for trainee physicians and persons of other professions. Further, the practical, emotional and interpersonal difficulties encountered in preparing to care for dying patients and their families have been extensively reported, as have the challenges in integrating palliative medicine within a crowded curriculum. Nevertheless, there is an increasing recognition that PC should be fully integrated within education and training in order to ensure a best possible preparation to meet all mentioned needs.
The Reference Group is chaired by Frank Elsner, Physician, Department of Palliative Medicine, Aachen, Germany, Stephen Mason, RD and Program Lead for Palliative Care, University of Liverpool, UK and Phil Larkin, Professor in Palliative and supportive care at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.