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Public health nurses


Public health nurses are employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide a range of health care services in the community. They are usually based in your local health centre and are assigned to cover specific geographical areas. They provide services in schools, in health centres, in day care and other community centres and in people's homes.

Public health nursing teams provide basic nursing care as well as advice and assistance to their patients. They provide planned essential weekend nursing and, in some cases, twilight nursing (this is the service for terminally ill patients). Public health nurses also act as an important point of access for other community care services.

Public health nurses and community registered general nurses liaise with family doctors (GPs), practice nurses, hospitals, hospices and other health service providers to ensure that the needs of the patient are met by the overall health service.

Public health nurses visit new-born infants and their mothers in their homes within 6 weeks of the birth. They are also involved in the arrangement of school health services. In some areas, public health nurses keep a register of older people and visit them as a matter of course. Sometimes, the same service is also provided for people with disabilities.


The main groups of people to whom public health nurses and their teams provide services are:

  • Older people who live at home
  • People who are chronically or acutely ill at home and people who are dying at home
  • Children - infant welfare services, child health services and school health services
  • Expectant mothers and mothers who have recently given birth
  • People with disabilities
  • People suffering social deprivation
  • Travellers
  • Those who have contracted Hepatitis C directly or indirectly from the use of Human Immunoglobulin-Anti-D or from the receipt within Ireland of any blood product or a blood transfusion and who hold a Health Amendment Act Card

Local Health Offices may employ Health Care Assistants to assist the public health nursing service. Care assistants provide personal care rather than domestic services but there is some overlap between what they do and what home helps do.

Palliative care

Access to public health palliative care nursing is via your family doctor GP or medical consultant. Some voluntary organisations, notably the Irish Cancer Society, provide nursing services to complement or as an alternative to the public health nursing service. Palliative nursing is provided in some areas by hospice nursing teams. You can arrange palliative nursing in a private capacity directly with a hospice but you will have to pay for private nursing services. You can read more about palliative care here.

Where To Apply

You may be referred to your local public health nurse by your family doctor (GP), or you may contact the service yourself through your local health centre or through your Local Health Office.

Information on the Irish Cancer Society home care team and services are available from:
Irish Cancer Society
43-45 Northumberland Road
Dublin 4
Tel: +353 (0)1 231 0500
Fax: +353 (0)1 2310 555
Cancer Helpline Freefone: 1800 200 700

Further information

Public health nursing service and the Health Act 1970

The Health Act 1970 places many obligations on the Health Service Executive (HSE). Section 60 of the Health Act 1970 requires the HSE to provide a free nursing service to medical card holders and such other categories of persons and for such purposes as may be specified by the Minister.

This free nursing service is to give patients advice and assistance on matters relating to their health and to assist them if they are sick. In practice, public health nurses mainly provide services to older people, children and people with disabilities living in the community.

Page updated: 16 September 2010



Related Documents

  • Palliative care
    Palliative care aims to provide the best quality of life possible for patient and family when there is no medical expectation of a cure.
  • Cancer services
    Health services and supports available to people who are living with cancer.
  • Maternity and Infant Care Services
    The public health service provides free maternity services for all expectant mothers for the period of the pregnancy and for 6 weeks after the birth.

Contact Us

If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.