EAPC congressDelegates in plenary at the 15th World EAPC congress in Madrid

Madrid has just hosted the 15th World Congress of the European Association of Palliative Care and a glance at Spain’s aging population shows why it was an appropriate choice of destination.

According to figures from Spain’s national statistics office, over 65s will make up 35 per cent of the population by 2050 – while close to a quarter of million Spaniards will be over 100 years old.

While this should not necessarily be seen as a burden – the elderly tend to be financially secure and are big consumers – the projections will help shape policy making in relation to end-of-life care.

The Spanish capital has a total population of 6.3 million. In 2005 the regional government introduced an integrated palliative care model to provide universal access to all levels of care.

The EAPC congress gathered close to 3,000 delegates at the IFEMA congress centre, including doctors and health care professionals such as nurses, physiologists, and psychologists.

Significantly, the congress acknowledged the role of the millions of volunteers in the field by launching the ‘EAPC Madrid Charter on Volunteering in Hospice and Palliative Care’.

“Many palliative care organisations couldn’t work as well without volunteers: taking patients to the appointments, accompanying them, etc. This is very important, unpaid and unacknowledged work”, said Julie Ling, the CEO of the European Association of Palliative Care, in an interview with IFEMA.

Palliative care is at different stages of development in different countries, so it was seen as hugely beneficial to people coming from low-income countries to attend the congress to share experiences and the latest advances in the field.

“We offer people from low income countries preferential rates, and the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care has sponsored 20 people to attend”, confirmed Ling.

These are challenging times for medical congresses as compliance issues limit pharma companies’ involvement and sponsorship. The pharmaceutical industry has also reduced the number of delegates that they invite. Despite this, EAPC confirmed that several large pharmaceutical companies had taken stands at the congress. In recent years there has also been an increase in the number of stands from not-for-profit palliative care organisations.