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Building on the Best

A joint project by the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care, NHS Boards and Macmillan, Building on the Best is a programme which aims to bring health professionals, patients, carers and families together to improve how hospitals support people who may be approaching the end of their life.

In January 2020 the project enters an exciting new phase featuring: grants available to local acute hospitals; the establishment of the Scottish Acute Palliative Care Network; public engagement activity. For details and to get involved read on......


Around half of people who die in Scotland die in hospital. This means that it is important that hospitals are places where people receive good care at the end of their life. Hospitals also have an important role in caring for people who may eventually die elsewhere, since an admission to hospital sometimes prompts patients, carers and families to discuss and plan for their future care.

There are many challenges to delivering good palliative care and end-of-life care in busy hospital wards. One central challenge is that, whilst declining health is easy to spot, it is difficult for doctors be certain when a person is going to die. “Will the patient get well enough to leave hospital this time?” can be a hard question to answer.

This means that doctors, nurses, patients and families are all dealing with great uncertainty. In these circumstances it can be helpful to think about different future scenarios. What if my health continues to decline? What if I go home but I get unwell again in a few months? What are my priorities in life now that my good health is so uncertain? In a high-pressure hospital environment it can be difficult for doctors and nurses to find the right opportunity to talk sensitively with people about these sorts of issues.

Patients and families may be unprepared or unwilling to discuss these matters at such a distressing time, and find it difficult to cope with the uncertainty that declining health can bring. A particular focus of this project is therefore to enable good communication between patients, families and staff so that shared decision-making can take place.

Phase 1 of the Project (Oct 2016 - Sept 2018)

Phase 1 worked with three acute hospitals in Scotland. The evaluation report on Phase 1 can be downloaded here. A poster on the work can be downloaded here.

Four short videos about the RED-MAP resources developed in Phase 1 can be watched here. (Scroll down and select from list of resources).

A short video of an acute physician reflecting on his ward's involvement in the project can be watched here.

Phase 2 of the Project (September 2019 - August 2022)

This phase will have 3 strands:-

  1. Establishing a Scottish Network for Acute Palliative Care (more details here)
  2. Support of local ward-based improvements, including grant funding (more details here)
  3. Public engagement

If you are interested to find out more about any aspect of the project then please get in touch here or call 0131 272 2735.

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