Dr Liz Gwyther reports on the WHO Ad-hoc Technical Advisory Group meeting on palliative care and long term care

Categories: Leadership.

Although some of the invited palliative care experts were not able to attend the meeting, there was strong representation of palliative care skills and expertise in the international group who gathered in Barcelona. 

This group of leading palliative care clinicians, advocates and researchers were brought together to advise the WHO on the implementation of the palliative care resolution adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2014.

The WHO team is led by Dr Marie-Charlotte Bouësseau with Dr Xavier Gomez-Batiste as Medical Officer for Palliative and Long Term Care for an initial six-month period.

WHO staff from Non-Communicable Disease (NCD), HIV and Cancer Control were also present.

A video message of encouragement from Dr Marie-Maule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General Health Systems and Innovation, was shown at the opening ceremony.

This was a historic meeting opened by Dr Albert Ledesma, Director of the Catalan Program for Social and Health Integrated Care, and Ms Isabel Sáiz from the Spanish Ministry of Health, with support from the University of Vic – Central University of Catalonia and “la Caixa” Foundation.

At the start of the working meeting, Dr Kathy Foley was elected chair of the ad-hoc technical advisory group with Dr Emmanuel Luyirika and Dr Suresh Kumar as vice-chairs.

The focus of the meeting was to develop a strategic plan for the implementation of the WHA resolution.

There are six working groups:

  1. Policy and organisation, co-ordinated by Dr Stephen Connor.
  2. Education, training and capacity building, co-ordinated by Dr Frank Ferris.
  3. Care of pain and other symptoms, co-ordinated by Prof Lukas Radbruch.
  4. Care of psychosocial needs, spirituality, dignity, ethics, human rights, co-ordinated by Dr Christina Puchalski.
  5. Essential medicines availability and accessibility, co-ordinated by Dr Jim Cleary.
  6. Research, quality, standards and national and global WHO plan evaluation, co-ordinated by Dr Massimo Costantini.

Through focused discussion and debate, examples of best practice (‘state of the art’), challenges and resources were identified.

Each group identified key recommendations for their area of work, an action plan and time frame for the action plan and deliverables, as well as follow up indicators for the activities.

The WHO staff working on palliative care and long term care will take these documents and aim to draft a strategic plan for the initial two-year period working towards implementation of the WHA resolution by February 2015.

This was an interesting and productive meeting with participants working in a collegial manner, all feeling the significance of the occasion and appreciative of the opportunity to contribute.

Prof Luc Deliens, Professor of Public Health and Palliative Care at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, said: “It was a pleasure and honour to take part and I look forward to seeing the WHO policy on palliative care established and being influential to promote the improvement of palliative care in the member states.”

Dr Frank Ferris, co-ordinator of the working group on Education, training and capacity building, said: “I can imagine great strides forward coming from our collective efforts and WHO’s leadership.”

Follow ehospice for updates on the work of the Advisory Group and the implementation of the WHA resolution.

* This article was originally published on the ehospice International edition


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