Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal
Speech by Lewis Macdonald in the Scottish Parliament debate
6 March 2019
I, too, congratulate Gordon MacDonald, in his absence, on securing the debate, and I congratulate Emma Harper on opening it.
As every member who has spoken has said, Marie Curie has played a vital role in providing palliative care across Scotland and beyond for many years, and the daffodil has become a widely recognised symbol of the support that the charity provides for people with cancer and other terminal conditions.
The daffodil pins that many of us are wearing today are not just a way for Marie Curie to raise much-needed funds for its hospices, homecare nurses and support networks; as Brian Whittle illustrated so well, they are also a way for many people to remember those whom they have lost to cancer and other illnesses, who benefited in their final days from the expert care of Marie Curie nurses.
There is no Marie Curie hospice in Aberdeen, but there are about 50 Marie Curie nurses working in Aberdeen and across the Grampian area to support people with cancer and terminal conditions.
They made over 6,000 home visits to more than 1,000 patients in 2017-18.
The helper service that is run by Marie Curie, which sees volunteers go into the homes of people who are receiving end-of-life care to provide support and friendship, has recently been reorganised in our area and now covers the whole of the north of Scotland.
With nearly 100 volunteers in Grampian alone, the service is particularly valuable to people who are receiving end-of-life care in rural areas and to their families.
It supports people who would otherwise find it difficult to access the kind of support that they need.
Marie Curie is one of the longest-running charities that support terminally ill patients, and, in Aberdeen and the north-east, as in many areas of Scotland, it works alongside other national and local charities.
The Marie Curie people with whom I deal are keen to emphasise that they are part of a wider family of support for people with cancer.
Aberdeen has its own Maggie’s centre, which provides support and advice to cancer patients, while Macmillan Cancer Support has a regular advice session at Aberdeen Citizens Advice Bureau as well as running local support groups.
CLAN Cancer Support works to support cancer patients and their families across Grampian and in Orkney and Shetland.
Cancer patients from the northern isles often come to Aberdeen royal infirmary for cancer treatment, and CLAN provides accommodation for patients and their families at CLAN Haven as well as counselling and therapy at the purpose-built CLAN House in Aberdeen.
The family of support for people who are in such circumstances is therefore very important.
Marie Curie nurses play a key role in providing practical palliative care for patients with terminal cancer and other diseases.
Marie Curie relies on the huge good will that it enjoys to raise the funds that are required to provide such services, but it is important for us all—and perhaps especially for the Government—to recognise that, on its own, such fantastic voluntary effort cannot achieve everything.
As Emma Harper said, as our population ages, demand for palliative care will only increase, and much of that demand will fall on integration authorities, health boards and local councils, all of which face their own funding challenges—perhaps especially, but not solely, in the north-east.
It is therefore vital that the Scottish Government continues to address such issues, supports the effective integration of health and social care, which we have debated on a number of occasions, and provides the support that the whole sector needs to move forward.
Inevitably, Marie Curie will see an increase in demand for its specialist nurses and so will need to receive continued support.
I close by paying tribute to all the Marie Curie nurses and volunteers, who do vital work in what can be a very difficult area.
I also acknowledge all those—including you, Presiding Officer—who deliver and support the great daffodil appeal every year, which will allow that important work to continue into the future.