Serious illnesses include conditions such as heart failure, lung fibrosis, kidney failure, advanced cancer, motor neuron disease (MND) and dementia. There are many others too. Sometimes it is a combination of conditions that mean that a palliative care approach is helpful.

Palliative care can be the main focus of care, or it can run alongside other treatments and care for the person’s condition/s.

Palliative care aims to support people living with serious illness to have quality of life despite their illness, and to support those who they are close to.

Palliative care can:

  • provide relief from pain and other distressing symptoms such as sickness and breathlessness;
  • help with social care needs - washing, dressing or eating;
  • provide emotional and psychological support, both for patients and their families;
  • work with patients and families to think and plan ahead for when their health deteriorates; (known as advance or anticipatory care planning);
  • care for people at the end of life, whether they are at home, in a care home, a hospital or hospice.

You can receive palliative care at any stage in your illness - it does not necessarily mean that you are close to the end of your life. Some people receive palliative care for years, while others may only require it in their last weeks or months of life. You can also receive palliative care alongside other treatments which help to control your illness, such as chemotherapy, dialysis, oxygen and medications.

Who provides palliative care in Fife?

For many of us, when we hear the term palliative care we automatically think about a hospice. While hospices play an important role for some people, the vast majority of palliative care is provided by professionals in other parts of the healthcare system. Palliative care in Fife is provided by a wide range of health and social care professionals, including:

  • General practitioners
  • District nurses
  • hospital nurses and doctors
  • Allied health professionals e.g. occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dietitians, chaplains, counsellors
  • social carers
  • voluntary sector (e.g. Fife Carers’ Association, Marie Curie, Maggie’s and Macmillan)
  • Fife Specialist Palliative Care Service
  • Palliative Care Outreach Team (Hospice @ Home/ Hospice Without Walls) 

Local GPs and District Nurses are the main providers of palliative care for people who are at home and in care homes in Fife. They are supported by Fife’s Specialist Palliative Care Service, who they can call 24 hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week if they need additional advice or support.

Fife specialist palliative care service

Supports patients, families and unpaid carers in the following settings, where this is needed:

  • The Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy
  • Fife’s community hospitals
  • People’s own homes and care homes
  • Hospice

Whenever the Specialist Palliative Care Team are supporting a patient or family in the hospitals or community in Fife, the patient’s usual care team (GP, District Nurse, hospital team) still play an active role in the person’s care.

Specialist inpatient palliative care in the hospice can be an option for people with complex needs. For some people, hospice is needed to manage difficult symptoms such as uncontrolled pain or sickness. For others, hospice care is needed as the person nears the end of life. Since the COVID-19 pandemic there has been an increase in care available in the community, fewer people have needed hospice care.