How many people will need palliative care in Scotland by 2040?

3rd February 2021

Worldwide deaths are expected to rise to 75 million by 2040.  The growing number of older people and the increased prevalence of chronic conditions indicate that more people would benefit from a palliative approach to care over the next 2 decades.  

Research published today in the BMJ is the first study to project estimates of future palliative care need for Scotland.  The researchers found that by 2040 more people in Scotland are projected to die with palliative care needs and these people will have increasingly complex needs.

The researchers used death registry data that rely on accurate completion of death certificates. They used a range of estimation methods, accounting for both underlying and contributory causes of death to produce robust projections. 

The researchers also carried out an expert consultation and consensus survey to ensure that its recommendations were relevant and applicable to practice. 

Patients with multimorbidity were defined as having two major illnesses from different disease groups that individually would require palliative care.  The researchers concluded that current models of palliative care must adapt to meet increased need among those aged 85 and over, most dying from multiple diseases, often including dementia. 

The researchers also concluded that there is a need for sustained investment in a national digital health and social care system that remains person-centred to improve care coordination and optimise palliative care for people wherever they live.

Finucane AM, Bone AE, Etkind S, Carr D, Meade R, Munoz-Arroyo R, Moine S, Iyayi-Igbinovia A, Evans CE, Higginson IJ, Murray SA.  How many people will need palliative care in Scotland by 2040? A mixed-method study of projected palliative care need and recommendations for service delivery. BMJ Open 2021;11:e041317. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2020-041317