The evaluation aimed to improve the care and quality of life for patients dying from an incurable illness and to ensure they and their families received excellent end-of-life care and services. The researchers found significant expansion in palliative care services. However, the evaluation also notes that gaps in provision remain.
The ‘Evaluation of the programme to support palliative and hospice care in the Republic of Ireland’ presents the findings of a five-phased evaluation of the programme, which assessed the progress and impact of the programme.
The report finds that Atlantic’s programme had considerable success in expanding and improving the provision of end-of-life care including:
- Increased access to care in all settings following investment in services in hospice, hospital and at home. For example the Marymount Hospice, a new in-patient hospice facility, doubled the number of hospice beds.
- Increased awareness of hospice and palliative care nationally among both patients and healthcare professionals through The Hospice-Friendly Hospitals programme.
- Increased access to care for non-cancer patients. A Hospice at Home Service, the first of its kind in the Republic of Ireland, made a commitment to extend care to patients with conditions other than cancer.
- Increased education programmes spanning basic to specialist levels of palliative care.
- Establishment of the first of its kind All-Ireland Institute for Hospice and Palliative Care, with a mandate to strengthen research, training, standards and policy influence.
The evaluation noted the following challenges remaining in the hospice/palliative care field in Ireland:
- The End of Life programme has increased capacity in regions that previously had few hospice resources but has not fully addressed geographical inequities.
- Poor communication between specialist palliative care provision and end-of-life care provided by generalists is a continuing issue.
- There has been insufficient statutory support to implement comprehensive specialist palliative care provision in low-resource regions.
From its first grant in 2004 through its final grant in 2010, Atlantic Philanthropies invested €25 million in the programme. The programme was carried out by several Atlantic grantees including Milford Care Centre, Limerick; the Irish Hospice Foundation; Marymount Hospice; the All-Ireland Institute for Hospice and Palliative Care and the Irish Association for Palliative Care.