The service has been operating in two of the five health trusts in Northern Ireland (Northern and Southern) since 2008.
It is delivered by palliative care nurses from Marie Curie, working alongside local GPs to provide urgent care for people nearing the end of life in their homes and telephone advice and support for those who do not need a home visit.
In 2015 a 12-month pilot was introduced, which involved extending the RRS to make support available from 8am to 10pm at weekends and bank holidays. The model was also introduced in part of a third health trust (Western), focusing on the northern sector of that region.
Announcing the funding, health minister Simon Hamilton said that he was delighted that the extended RRS would be able to continue, adding that it provided “essential care” for patients and carers.
“Most people who are receiving end of life care wish to remain at home wherever possible. Through this important service, patients’ needs can be met by rapid, short-term intervention at the end stages of their illness to help avoid emergency hospital admission,” he explained.
Hamilton noted that the extended service had proved extremely effective in its first year, stating that visits and calls were made to more than 800 patients, and 88% visits took place within two hours of a request being made.
He added: “A review of the service shows that 28% of visits by the RRS prevented an admission to hospital or an ambulance call out.”
Paula Heneghan, regional manager of the Marie Curie nursing service, welcomed the “fantastic news” that the extended service has been granted funding.
“This is great news for those people, and their families living with a terminal illness that require an out of hours service,” she said. “We know from research that patients with a terminal illness prefer to be treated away from hospital, and where possible, in their own homes.
“The [RRS] allows us to meet this need head-on, ensuring patients receive care where they want it and when they need it.”