New study finds 42% of countries have no provision for palliative care

A new study by the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA), and co-authored by Professor David Clark of the University of Glasgow has found that only 136 out of the world’s 234 countries have one or more hospice or palliative care services available to seriously ill people and their families and carers.

The report, launched today to mark World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2011 (8 October), raises fresh concerns that too many people across the world are living and dying without adequate care, support and pain relief.

Hospice and palliative care improves quality of life by providing physical, emotional, social and spiritual support for people affected by life-limiting conditions throughout the course of their illness. Globally, an estimated 100 million patients and family caregivers would benefit from hospice and palliative care, but as today’s report shows, only a fraction currently have access to it – though there has been some progress in the past five years, particularly in the development of services in Africa.

Professor David Clark, from the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Glasgow, Dumfries Campus was one of the report’s co-authors.

“Five years ago we mapped the development of palliative care around the world and this year we have updated the results. We are encouraged that there has been a marked increase in the number of services in operation, from 10,000 in 2006 to 16,000 in 2011. But we are very concerned that only 20 countries globally – that’s just 8.5% - provide palliative care services that are fully integrated with wider health services. Progress is modest and slow. We need a step change in activity if the global need for better care at the end of life is to be addressed.”

A fundamental component of palliative care is pain treatment but at present, 80% of the world’s population live in countries with no or low access to medications to treat moderate to severe pain.

Professor Clark added:

“Some 56 million deaths occur worldwide each year and it is estimated that 60% of these could benefit from some form of palliative care and better pain control. Current palliative care provision reaches only a tiny proportion of those in need. Huge barriers remain to achieving the vision of universal access to palliative care, particularly in improving access to controlled medications, including oral morphine for pain control.  Excellent palliative care services of the type delivered in Scotland are unfortunately not found in most other countries of the world.”

For more information contact Peter Aitchison in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535;


  • For further information about the WPCA report, please contact Zoe Grumbridge in the media team at Help the Hospices (UK) on +44 (0)20 7520 8251 / +44(0)7881 940318 or email
  • The full report will also be available to download from from 8 October 2011.


First published: 7 October 2011

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