Palliative care is an approach to care that improves the quality of life of patients (adults and children) and their families who are facing problems associated with life-threatening illness. It prevents and relieves suffering through the early identification, correct assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, whether physical, psychosocial or spiritual (WHO, 2020). Palliative care uses a multi-disciplinary team approach to help patients live as well as possible up until their death. Palliative care has benefits throughout all stages of treatment for life-limiting illnesses, often delivered jointly with other treatments which are aimed at extending the patient’s life.
In Ireland specialist palliative care services are provided by the HSE in conjunction with the voluntary sector. Specialist palliative care can be accessed in a range of settings including in the home, hospices, hospitals and residential care facilities.
The current Government policy on Palliative Care was published in 2001 and can be accessed here: Report of the National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care.
The 2020 Programme for Government commits to publishing a new Palliative Care Policy for Adults to update the existing policy from 2001. This will reflect the many developments in end-of life care and international best practice. The new policy will take account of the projected increase in Irelands older population and an increase in the number of people with life limiting conditions which would benefit from palliative care.
The Department of Health has conducted a public consultation and has commissioned three preparatory reports in preparation for the new policy. These can be accessed here.
Review of the implementation of the report of the 2001 National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care
In 2010 the Department of Health launched Palliative Care For Children With Life-Limiting Conditions In Ireland - A National Policy .
The national policy provides the framework for the development of services for children with life-limiting conditions and their families. It acknowledges that the needs of a child with a life limiting condition will differ from those relating to the care of an adult.
Palliative care for children focuses on enhancing the quality of life for the child and providing support for the family and includes the management of symptoms and bereavement support. The policy recommends a cooperative model with close liaison between all health care professionals and agencies involved in a child’s care.