Julie Ling writes about her new role at the helm of European Association of Palliative Care

Categories: Leadership.

“I was delighted to take up my new post as CEO of the EAPC in January 2015. The EAPC is based in Milan, Italy and was established over 25 years ago.  In the last few months there have been huge changes with not only a new CEO, but also a new board, and a new president. With all change comes opportunity and with new people joining the board from a range of professions, cultures and backgrounds the EAPC will inevitably go through changes over the coming months and years.

As Chief Executive Officer I feel it is important to help direct this change in a meaningful way. I work closely with the EAPC President and the Board of Directors and am delighted that Professor Phil Larkin was elected as President at the recent board elections in Copenhagen, not least of all because of our close geographical proximity.     

The EAPC currently represents 55 national associations from 31 countries throughout Europe.  The work of the organisation includes the development and promotion of palliative care through education, research and advocacy.  The main advocacy work of the EAPC has been through the Prague Charter which promotes palliative care as a human right.  The Charter is jointly supported by the WHPCA, HRW, IAHPC and UICC. The Charter has been translated into 23 world languages and been signed by many thousands of people.

The EAPC has also focused on time-limited working groups called Task Forces.  There are currently ten active task forces and the EAPC are indebted to the energy, effort and enthusiasm that are shown by the many people engaged in these. We encourage others to develop their ideas regarding further task force projects http://www.eapcnet.eu/Corporate/AbouttheEAPC/Projectsandtaskforces.aspx. Having worked in children’s palliative care I am delighted to report that work is underway to develop a new children’s palliative care task force. 

As the leading organisation in palliative care in Europe a key part of the work of the EAPC CEO is the involvement of the organisation in several European Commission FP7-funded projects including:

  • INSUP-C, (Investigation of integrated palliative care in cancer and chronic conditions)
  • PACE (Comparing Effectiveness of Palliative Care for Elderly People in Long-Term Care Facilities in Europe),
  • ACTION (A study to assess cancer patients’ involvement in medical decision making and its impact on their quality of life),
  • ATOME (Access to Opioid Medicines in Europe which finished November 2014).

The main role of the EAPC in these projects is in the dissemination of findings.

Over the last 25 years the EAPC has developed a reputation for organising high quality palliative care conferences that provide an opportunity for those either working or with an interest in palliative care to gather and share research and ideas.  The latest World Congress of the EAPC (the 14th) recently took place in Copenhagen, Denmark.

My first experience of an EAPC congress was in 1993 in Bergen, Norway, where there were around 300 delegates.  This year there were approximately 2,800 delegates representing many different professions, cultures and 60 different countries. The conference attracted a record number of abstracts, and the scientific committee did a great job of developing a programme with a huge range of presentations that ensured that there was something of interest for all delegates.

A key strength of the EAPC Congresses is the opportunity that they provide to network and meet with colleagues from other professions, organisations and countries. As I was working it was difficult for me to get to many of the sessions but the ones I attended were all of an exceptionally high standard. 

I loved the city of Copenhagen and the venue was truly one of the best venues we have used.  The combination of endless coffee, healthy snacks and Danish cookies were really effective at ensuring that no one felt the need to leave the building resulting in full rooms for nearly all sessions.  An added pleasure was the opportunity to see Crown Princess Mary of Denmark at the opening ceremony at such close quarters (see attached).

It is a huge credit to the Irish Association for Palliative Care and an honour for Ireland to host the next EAPC Research Congress in University College Dublin next June. On the last day of the Copenhagen Congress, Niamh Finucane from the organising committee for Dublin made a fantastic presentation that made me a little home sick for Dublin but which I am sure tempted many to make the journey to Ireland next year.  The next World Congress will take place in Madrid in May 2017; the preparations have started already!

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