The level of provision of specialist palliative care services in Scotland: an international benchmarking study

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Comparative benchmarking of specialist palliative care (SPC) services across jurisdictions can be used to assess the adequacy of provision. Published in 2016, the Scottish Atlas of Palliative Care unlocks the possibility of benchmarking Scotland’s provision against other European Union (EU) countries. Our objectives were to describe the provision of SPC services in Scotland and compare this with other EU countries, assessing coverage against European norms.


We conducted a secondary analysis of data collected as part for the Scottish Atlas by structured telephone (n=33) or online (n=3) survey with informants from 14 territorial health boards and 15 hospices who provided information about SPC services in their locality. National-level Scottish data were compared with data from other EU countries allowing ranking for each service type and service coverage as calculated against European Association for Palliative Care norms.


Scotland had a total of 23 SPC inpatient units containing 349 beds, 27 SPC hospital support teams and 38 SPC home care teams. Relative to other EU countries, Scotland ranked seventh for provision of SPC inpatient units and hospital support teams, and fifth for home care teams. Coverage for these services was 85%, 100% and 72%, respectively.


Scotland is positioned among the top 10 EU countries for the level of provision of SPC services. National policy in Scotland has focused on the delivery of palliative care at home or in a homely setting. These data support a focus on developing services in community settings to meet Scotland’s policy ambitions.

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