Background: With the goal of achieving greater unity and coherence, the Council of Europe developed a national palliative care (PC) policy framework-Recommendation (2003) 24. Although directed at member states, the policy spread to the wider World Health Organisation (WHO) European Region. This article aims to present the current situation relating to national PC health policies in European countries.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 53 European countries of the WHO European Region. Relevant data reported (i) the existence of official documents concerning the provision of PC; (ii) the role of health departments and policymakers in the evaluation of PC provision and (iii) the availability of financial resources for PC provision.
Results: In total, 46/53 (87%) EU and non-EU countries responded. PC legislation is established in 20 (71%) EU and nine (50%) non-EU countries. A total of 12 (43%) EU countries possess a PC plan or strategy in comparison with six (33%) non-EU countries. Individuals from Departments of Health and designated policymakers have established collaborative PC efforts. Quality systems have been initiated in 15 (54%) EU and four (22%) non-EU countries. Significant differences were not found in the reporting of payments for PC services between European regions.
Conclusion: An improvement in national PC policy in both EU and non-EU countries was observed. Future priorities include potential initiatives to improve relationships with policymakers, establish quality control programmes and ensure financial support for PC.