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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2012 Apr;43(4):783-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2011.05.006. Epub 2012 Jan 20.

The Catalonia World Health Organization demonstration project for palliative care implementation: quantitative and qualitative results at 20 years.

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The Qualy Observatory/WHO Collaborating Center for Palliative Care Public Health Programs, Catalan Institute of Oncology, Barcelona, Spain.


Catalonia (Spain) has a total population of 7.3 million citizens for whom the National Health Service (NHS) provides health care that is free at the point of access. The prevalence of terminally ill patients is between 30,100 and 39,600. Twenty years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with the Catalan Department of Health and the Catalan Institute of Oncology, began a demonstration project (WHO Demonstration Project) in palliative care (PC) with the aim of implementing specialist PC services, generating experience in this field, identifying areas for improvement, and introducing educative procedures (clinical and nonclinical). Over the past 20 years, 237 PC clinical services (72 home care support teams, 49 hospital support teams, 60 units with 742 dedicated beds, 50 outpatient clinics, and six psychosocial support teams) have been implemented. In the five years since the previous evaluation, 57 new clinical services (15 new hospital support teams, 36 outpatient clinics, and six psychosocial support teams among others) and four nonclinical services (education, research, WHO Collaborating Center, and planning) have been implemented. During the year 2010, a total of 46,200 processes were undertaken for the care of 23,100 patients, of whom 12,100 (52%) had cancer and 11,000 (48%) had other chronic advanced diseases. The overall yearly costs are around €52,568,000, with an overall savings of €69,300,000 (€2275 per patient, net savings to the NHS of €16,732,000). In the last five years, three qualitative evaluations and a benchmarking process have been performed to identify weak points and inequities in care provision among districts. Systematic assessments indicate high cost-effectiveness of care as well as high levels of satisfaction by patients and their relatives, thus reinforcing the principle that access to PC under the auspices of the NHS at the end of life is a basic human right.

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