Palliative care aims to provide the best quality of life possible for a terminally ill patient and their family, including keeping the patient free from pain as far as is possible. It responds to physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs and extends to support in bereavement. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for providing palliative care services.
Whilst palliative care was originally developed primarily for cancer patients, care is also available to other patients such as those with motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis.
Palliative care can be provided in a hospice, in an acute or community hospital or in the patient's home. Access to palliative care is decided by the HSE on the basis of need. There is some variation in the availability of palliative care throughout the country.
Palliative care is provided in a number of ways by specialist palliative care in-patient units (hospices). These units form the hub around which other services are developed. Currently there are nine hospice units; three in the Dublin area and one each in counties Kildare, Limerick, Cork, Galway, Sligo and Donegal.
Hospice or palliative care is provided:
- In people’s own homes, by home-care nurses working in cooperation with the family doctor and/or specialist palliative care team
- In hospices (dedicated specialist palliative care in-patient units)
- In general hospitals, by the hospital’s specialist palliative care team
- In community hospitals and nursing homes, by home-care nurses working in
cooperation with the family doctor and/or specialist palliative care teams
Palliative care is provided by the HSE in partnership with voluntary service providers. Both public and private patients can use the in-patient units and other services.
Palliative care and children
Palliative care for children is delivered differently from the palliative care services for adults. Many children requiring palliative care have life-limiting conditions, as opposed to advanced terminal conditions and children may survive for many years with these life-limiting conditions.
Where children need palliative care it is usually provided at home. In the home, the family is supported by their family doctor, public health nurse and the specialist palliative care team (where available). The medical and nursing care of children in hospitals is the responsibility of paediatric-trained medical and nursing staff, with support from the specialist palliative care service.
There is more information on palliative care for children on The Palliative Hub for Children and Young People.
How to apply
You can be referred for palliative care services in a number of ways; through your family doctor or through your hospital doctor in consultation with your family doctor or through the hospital’s specialist palliative care team in consultation with your family doctor.
You can talk to any of the above on your own initiative about getting a referral.
Where to apply
The HSE has responsibility for providing palliative care services; contact your Local Health Office.
The Irish Hospice Foundation has a local services directory, giving all palliative care services, county by county. This directory also gives contact details for local support groups for patients and their families.
The Palliative Hub provides information and resources on palliative care on the island of Ireland.
You can also get support from: