Pioneering EU project leads the way on palliative care in Serbia
A new public health initiative has transformed palliative care in Serbia.
Completed this month, the EU-funded programme has supported the development of a system of palliative care services across the country. The three and a half year project saw the development of a new model of service delivery, the training of over 1,200 medical professionals and the establishment of fifteen new Palliative Care sites across Serbia.
Despite being a fundamental cornerstone of any modern national health service, no comprehensive palliative care system existed in Serbia before the start of the project – in 2011, the country ranked amongst the lowest performing EU countries in terms of service development in this area. Patients needing palliative care were largely left to fend for themselves with no dedicated clinical or home care services to offer continued support to them or their families.
The project team, led by OPM, supported the Serbian Ministry of Health to design and implement a programme of palliative care services throughout the country. This involved working with a range of stakeholders to address different elements of palliative care – from the design of educational courses to the development of standards of care and the reform of regulatory frameworks. Work focused on supporting the development of a holistic, person-centred model of care that represents a complete departure from traditional care approaches that focused on the ‘patient’ rather than the ‘person’.
A multifaceted approach
On the educational side, the team designed and piloted palliative care curricula at both the undergraduate and post graduate level. As a result, medical faculties and higher nursing schools in Serbia now offer accredited palliative care courses and the discipline has been accepted as a medical speciality. This has been complemented by the development of standards of care, quality indicators and guidelines for practitioners working with those who have life-limiting conditions. The integration of these approaches into medical practices and procedures is backed by bespoke training programmes for a range of professions including doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and physiotherapists - Serbia was also the first country in Europe to accredit a palliative care course for social workers.
Another focus of the project was the establishment of dedicated Palliative Care Units and the provision of palliative care through home care teams across the country. These new models of service delivery mean that palliative care experts are now able to address the – often acute – social and emotional aspects of chronic progressive illnesses, tailoring support to the individual and reducing the burden on family and friends.
This approach has laid the foundation for the effective and sustainable development of palliative care services across Serbia – helping ensure that high quality palliative care is available to all those who need it.
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