The quality of end of life care in the United Kingdom has been ranked as the very best in the world in a recent study.
A report conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit was hugely complimentary regarding the quality and availability of such services within the UK.
The study examined 80 countries worldwide, and particularly praised the NHS and hospice movement within the UK, describing the quality of care in the country as “second to none”.
As would perhaps be expected, developed economies generally performed well in the study.
Australia and New Zealand ranked second and third in the report, but there was also some encouraging news for developing economies and the third world.
The Economist Intelligence Unit found that the quality of care in some of the poorest nations on the planet had improved considerably, with African nations ranking surprisingly highly in the study.
Mongolia was rated as highly as 28th by the Economist Intelligence Unit, with its investment in hospice facilities considered particularly important.
Meanwhile, Uganda, ranked 35th in the report, has managed to improve access to pain control through a public-private partnership.
Rankings in the study were calculated by utilising assessments of the quality of hospitals and hospice environments.
In particular, the Economist Intelligence Unit assessed staffing numbers and skills, affordability of care and quality of care.
And although the results related to Britain were encouraging, the overall picture was rather disturbing for the quality of end of life care worldwide.
Less than 50 per cent of the countries survey provided what the report classed as a good end of life care, with only 34 of the 80 countries reported on considered to be adequate.
Not only was this a relatively paltry number in terms of total nations, but the percentage of the global population that they represented was even smaller.
The 34 nations considered to be good in terms of end of life care only accounted for approximately 15 per cent of the adult population.
Yet despite the relatively poor level of end of life care indicated by the study, the report in fact suggested that this aspect of healthcare is becoming increasingly important.
An ageing population ensures that people around the world are increasingly facing “drawn-out” deaths.
Already there have been a demographic problems with greying populations in such countries as Japan and Germany, and this trend is expected to accelerate and encompass the rest of the developed world in the coming decades.
Report author Annie Pannelay praise the quality of end of life care in the UK, but also suggested that there is still room for improvement.
“The UK is an acknowledged leader in palliative care. That reflects its comprehensive strategy towards the issue as well as the improvements that are being made. But there is more that the UK could do to stay at the forefront of palliative care standards, such as ironing out occasional problems with communication or symptom control,” Pannelay commented.
Despite efforts to promote awareness of responsible alcohol usage, new figures indicate that the number of alcohol-related deaths in Scotland has increased over the last twelve months.
The Daily Record reported on figures from the National Records of Scotland which indicated that there were 1,152 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland during 2014; a 5 percent increase on the previous year.
Previous research has indicated that Scots are the most likely among UK residents to engage in dangerous binge drinking.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 36 percent of Scots confessed to binge drinking in a 2013 survey; a larger proportion than in any other region of Britain.
And Scotland was placed eight on the so-called ‘alcohol consumption world league table’ back in 2009.
Statistics published by the World Health Organization at that time indicated that nearly 50 million litres of pure alcohol were consumed in Scotland in 2007. This placed the nation above Spain, Italy and France in terms of pure alcohol consumption.
Commenting on the publicised alcohol-related deaths in Scotland, Public Health Minister Maureen Watt struck a cautious note, indicating that the figures were worrying but should be seen in a wider context of a decline in alcohol consumption in Scotland.
“This increase in alcohol-related deaths is disappointing, particularly given the decreasing trend we have seen in recent years,” Watt stated.
But the Health Minister also made it clear that the country has a lot of work to do in order to eradicate problem drinking, or at least reduce it to an acceptable level.
“Alcohol deaths in Scotland are almost double those in the early 1990s. The five per cent increase in 2014, following a two per cent rise the previous year, shows that even though significant progress has been made since 2006 far more needs to be done,” Watt opined.
Watt added that the government has attempted to introduce measures to discourage binge drinking, stating that the alcohol framework put in place by the Scottish government consist of over 40 measures.
These are intended to reduce consumption, support families and communities, promote positive attitudes and positive choices, and improve treatment and support services.
Watt also suggested that availability and pricing played a major role in problem drinking, and this view was echoed by chair of BMA Scotland Dr Peter Bennie.
“The Scottish Government has made great strides to introduce a comprehensive alcohol strategy, but it will inevitably be less effective without measures to deal with the affordability of alcohol and the proliferation of cheap, high strength alcohol that fuels heavy drinking and causes the greatest harm,” Bennie asserted.