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