Palliative Care

The programme was established in 2010 as a joint initiative of the HSE Clinical Design and Innovation and the Royal College of Physicians.

The programme aims to ensure that persons with life-limiting conditions and their families can easily access a level of palliative care service that is appropriate to their needs regardless of care setting or diagnosis.

About Palliative Care

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of people facing the problems associated with life-limiting illness and supports their families.

The palliative care approach focuses on the prevention and relief of suffering by means of assessing and treating pain and other physical, psychosocial or spiritual problems.

The aim of palliative care is to enhance quality of life and, wherever possible to positively influence the course of illness. Palliative care also extends support to families to help them cope with their family member’s illness and their own experience of grief and loss.


Early provision of palliative care

Many people mistakenly believe that you can only receive palliative care when other treatments are no longer possible. Actually, palliative care can be provided to people of any age and at any stage of their illness. Providing palliative care at an early stage in a person’s illness, for example, while using therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation can help to better manage symptoms and complications.


Levels of palliative care specialisation

Palliative care provision is the responsibility of the whole healthcare team and uses a team approach to planning and providing care tailored to meet the individual needs of the person and their family.  Within a healthcare team are three levels of palliative care provision with increasing specialisation from level 1 to level 3:

Level 1:  Provided in any location or setting by all health care professionals as part of their role and using a palliative care approach. 

Level 2: Provided in any location, using a palliative care approach by health care professionals who have additional knowledge of palliative care principles and use this as part of their role.

Level 3: Provided by health care professionals who work solely in palliative care, and who have extensive knowledge and skills in this specialty. 


About the Programme

The aim of the National Clinical Programme for Palliative Care is:

To ensure that patients with life-limiting conditions and families can easily access a level of palliative care service that is appropriate to their needs regardless of care setting or diagnosis.

The National Clinical Programme for Palliative Care reports to the National Director Clinical Design and Innovation, HSE.

The Clinical Lead, Nursing Lead and Programme Manager work together to ensure the delivery of the objectives of the programme and the programme manager is responsible for reporting to the HSE and RCPI. The Clinical Advisory Group provides clinical oversight and strategic guidance to the programme. It is an RCPI committee and all palliative medicine consultants in Ireland are invited to become members.

The multidisciplinary Working Group is tasked with agreeing and facilitating the implementation of the work-plan, devised to deliver the objectives of the programme. The working group is chaired by the Clinical Lead. Sub groups may be established to work on specific work-streams; including members with the required expertise in the area of practice.

Collaboration with other programmes is encouraged and facilitated where possible. The programme works closely with external strategic partners in palliative care including the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC), the Irish Association for Palliative Care (IAPC), the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) and Irish Palliative Medicine Consultants Association (IPMCA).

The Programme works in close cooperation with the National Director & General Manager for Palliative Care. As Palliative Care is provided in all healthcare settings, the Programme actively engages with all appropriate Health Service Divisions to support a system wide approach in progressing Programme workstreams and developments.