The Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) is calling on the Government to provide an additional investment of €10million in palliative and end of life care services in Ireland, to address critical gaps and inequities across the country.
The increased spend would include:
- An investment of €1.5m in Children’s Palliative Care services, to include funding for 20 new Children’s Outreach Nurses to support the increased number of children living with Life Limiting Conditions (LLC).
- An initial investment of €1m to provide funding for the night nursing service which allows people to die at home surrounded by family.
As part of its Pre-Budget submission The IHF is also calling on the Government to urgently address gaps in the provision of palliative care and hospice services in the Midland and North East Regions.
CEO of The Irish Hospice Foundation, Sharon Foley, said an Economic Evaluation of Palliative Care Services in Ireland, conducted by ESRI and TCD this year, provides compelling evidence that the provision of comprehensive Specialist Palliative Care (SPC) services across all care settings is cost effective.
“This piece of research shows that it costs marginally more to provide a full specialist palliative care service in a region – yet this service delivers better quality outcomes for patients and their families. It remains of huge concern that areas of the country remain poorly serviced for a specialist inpatient unit. The Midland and North East regions still have no committed plan in place for an inpatient unit. The current situation is completely unacceptable.”
Calling for investment for Children’s Palliative Care Services, Ms Foley pointed to new figures released earlier this year which revealed that the number of children in Ireland living with LLC is 3,840, almost three times the number previously estimated.
“With only one Consultant Paediatrician with a special interest in paediatric palliative medicine in Ireland and only eight Children’s Outreach Nurses, there is a considerable shortage of resources given the true prevalence figures. These nurses act as liaison between hospitals, healthcare professionals and parents, enabling seriously ill children to be cared for at home. Many more nurses are needed as due to regional inequities where you live in Ireland currently dictates whether you can avail of this invaluable service.”
Another area of concern is the shortfall in funding for night nursing services. The Irish Hospice Foundation funds the Nurses for Night Care service which allows patients with life-limiting illnesses other than cancer to die at home, surrounded by their close family in familiar surroundings. The Irish Cancer Society’s night nursing service is dedicated to those with a cancer diagnosis.
Demand for the IHF’s service grew by 25% year on year between 2006 and 2013 and by 20% in the past two years. The service cost the IHF €1.3 million in the past seven years and is estimated to cost €580,000 in 2015.
Ms Foley commented, “Funding this service in its entirety is becoming increasing unsustainable due to the growing demand. Research that we undertook in 2014 revealed that 75 per cent of people wish to die in their own homes surrounded by their loved ones. The reality is that only 25 per cent of people will get to do so, due partly to gaps in services. In striving for the best care at end of life we need to ensure that we are facilitating the wishes of the people as best as possible. We only get one chance to have a good death, so we are calling on the Government to prioritise end of life services in Budget 2016.”