Kyriaki Mystakidou, Associate Professor in Palliative Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece, and President of ‘Hellenic Association for Pain Control and Palliative Care’; Matina Symeonidi, PhD Candidate in Palliative Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. Here’s the latest in our series of blog posts that show how countries have used the Budapest Commitments as a framework to develop palliative care
In 2008, we signed a commitment to extend palliative care throughout Greece with specialised units, hospices and organised home care. The goals were for the official inclusion of palliative care in the National Health System and the expansion of clinical research across the discipline. In 2010, it proved to be easier to build up and execute an organised education programme for health professionals, than to establish a national healthcare programme and develop palliative care in Greece.
Increasing access to medication
A big priority was to achieve access to medication in Greece and here we have made significant progress. In 2011, Greece joined the ATOME project (Access to opioid medication in Europe) and on 20 November 2012 we held an ATOME conference in Athens. We welcomed representatives from medical oncology and radiation oncology departments, palliative care units, pain clinics, therapy centres for dependent individuals, non-governmental organisations for cancer patients, Athens and Piraeus pharmaceutical associations, the Ministry of Justice and from the police department. The day included presentations from national and international experts, highlighting successes and challenges in opioid use of pain management and substitution therapy and discussion on how to overcome barriers to opioid access in Greece.
Increasing public awareness
Many other educational events have been held in the past year: for health professionals, to raise general awareness and to expand knowledge of palliative care. We have also worked hard to achieve regular media attention through interviews and articles about the work of our Palliative Care Unit.
Progress here has sadly been slower. Our hopes for the introduction of palliative care into national strategies could be described as ‘incomplete’ during 2012. The ‘National Cancer Action Plan’ of the Ministry of Health, for healthcare professionals’ education and training that aimed to expand palliative care at a national level, has not yet been accomplished.
Increasing education and training
Palliative care is already in the curriculum for medical and nursing students in the undergraduate university schools, but there is still a lack of training in undergraduate education for the other healthcare professionals (eg psychologists and social workers).
As a provider of integrated palliative care for the whole country, our University Palliative Care Unit in Athens trains healthcare professionals using a theoretical and clinically-based approach. We deliver a successful, four-term Postgraduate Masters Programme entitled ‘Organisation and Management of Supportive and Palliative Care of Chronically ill Patients’. The programme, run jointly by the School of Medicine and the Department of Nursing School of the University of Athens, is aimed at healthcare workers, especially doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and psychotherapists. In 2012, the first 21 students completed the process and achieved accreditation.
“Palliative care for the chronically ill helps the patient and his family to stand with dignity for whatever is the disease. The Masters courses helped me to learn how to hear and feel more inventively the needs of patients and their carers. And this, I believe, will provide better results to the goals of their rehabilitation”, says Eleni Michailidou, an occupational therapist and Masters degree student.
Progress in research has also been significant. In 2012, we carried out a research programme about the promotion of quality of care for the chronically ill. This work results from several clinical studies and is supported by numerous publications in international scientific journals. Thus, we continue our commitments to provide better future care.
More about the Budapest Commitments…
You can find background information on the Budapest Commitments on the website of the EAPC.
Click here to read how other national organisations have used the framework of the Budapest Commitments to develop palliative care. All published material also appears in Dr David Oliver’s guest editorial in the May/June 2013 issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care and will be presented at the 13th World Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care in Prague 2013.