Inequities in specialist palliative care services need to be addressed to ensure best end of life care for all

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World Hospice and Palliative Care Day takes place on Saturday, October 10th and is a unified day of action to celebrate and support hospice and palliative care around the world. The theme for World Day 2015 is “Hidden Lives/Hidden Patients”, which puts the spotlight on patients that can struggle to access palliative care.

Despite Ireland ranking 4th in the 2015 Quality of Death Index, the IHF (a national charity dedicated to all matters related to dying death and bereavement) and the IAPC (the collective and expert voice for those working in Palliative Care), are highlighting the difficulties some patients in Ireland continue to have to access palliative care.

Sharon Foley, CEO of the IHF said, “In Ireland we have an ageing population and we need to respond to this need and ensure that not only are we living well, but we are dying well. We only get one chance at a good death and a person’s geographical location should have no bearing on this. While it is welcome to see Ireland rank so high in the Index, there are currently unacceptable gaps in existence in the availability of specialist palliative care services in the country. The fact that there is no inpatient Level III hospice in the Midlands and North East regions means patients have no option but to be admitted to an acute hospital for care – where the majority do not want to be. Homecare teams do not have the dedicated support of a full multi-disciplinary team including social workers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. This is unacceptable and we are calling on the Government to prioritise the development of firm actions plans for these regions as a matter of urgency.”

Ms Foley added, “Palliative care is a human right. As part of World Day we are calling for the best care at end of life for all people, regardless of what illness they suffer from or where they live. Everyone deserves the best possible care on their final journey.”

The IAPC has also echoed these comments from The IHF stating: “The expertise delivered by a multi-disciplinary specialist palliative care team should be available to all who require it, 24/7, on the basis of need alone. Yet some patients are unable to access this expertise because of constrained resources that results in access being limited on the basis of age, diagnosis, post-code or due to lack of services out of hours and weekends. Patients are disadvantaged as a consequence and this is inexcusable. The Government should ensure that resources prescribed for palliative care are applied for the purposes intended and that they are distributed in a manner that eliminates the inequities that currently exist.”

The Irish Hospice Foundation is holding a public meeting in Mullingar Park Hotel on Wednesday, October 21st at 7.30pm to highlight the urgent need for investment in palliative care services in the Midlands region and the lack of development to date.

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