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Palliative Care

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What is Palliative Care?

Palliative and end of life care is the active, holistic care of patients with advanced progressive illness. This is an integral part of the care delivered by all health and social care professionals, and indeed by families and carers, to those living with, and dying from any advanced, progressive and incurable conditions. Palliative and end of life care focuses on the person rather than the disease and aims to ensure quality of life for those living with an advanced non-curative condition.

A palliative care approach includes:

  • managing physical symptomsPalliative Care in Partnership Logo
  • providing emotional, spiritual and psychological support
  • social care, including support for personal care and everyday tasks
  • support for those important to the person.

Who is Palliative Care for?

Palliative care is for any person living with a life-threatening illness that causes them to suffer pain and where they have physcial, psychological and spiritual needs, they are likely to benefit from being able to receive care and support from people who are skilled in providing palliative care.  Many people think of cancer when they hear the term palliative care and it is true that palliative care teams often do provide support to a lot of people who are living with cancer, but there are other conditions that people can have where they could benefit from receiving palliative care.  These include people in the later stages of health problems such as long term conditions like heart failure, lung disease, dementia and serious brain conditions such as motor neuron disease.

Around 1% of the population of Northern Ireland, approximately 19,000 people, are likely to benefit from palliative care and around 11,500 of the 15,000 people who die in Northern Ireland each year are people who have palliative care needs.  As the proportion of our local population who are elderly increases, the number of people who are likely to need palliative care will also increase.  It is estimated that this could be by over 31% over the next 25 years.

What do we know about what people want

Given the choice and with the right kind of support, most people would prefer to die in their own home, yet according to Northern Ireland statistics, in 2017, 48% of all deaths in NI happened in hospital.  In a study carried out in October 2007, the National Audit Office found that 40% of people who had died in hospital did not have medical needs that could only have been treated in hospital.  This suggests that for at least some of these people, if they had had the right type of palliative care support, they might have been able to spend their final days at home or in a different setting rather than in hospital.

The demand for hospital beds for the population as a whole is increasing all the time and when it can’t be met, it leads to long delays in Emergency Departments where patients have to wait for a hospital bed to become available.  We know that people with life-limiting conditions often do not want to be admitted to hospital and so it makes sense to try  to ensure that every effort is made to provide a safe alternative for them.

Palliative care can do much to relieve the symptoms that are part and parcel of the later stages of serious illness and help people to live as well as possible for the time that they have. It can also provide much-needed support and reassurance to carers when they need it most.

For further information please follow the link: Home – Palliative Care in Partnership (

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