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CHALLENGES and opportunities in meeting the palliative care needs of people with heart failure is the focus of a seminar being held in Dublin, this week.(Friday, 2nd September)

Cardiologists and palliative care specialists will share their experiences of palliative care and heart failure during this one day event.

Guest speakers include Dr Fliss Murtagh, Reader in Palliative Medicine at the Cicely Saunders Institute, Kings College, London.  Dr Murtagh will present international evidence on palliative care in heart failure. Dr Karen Ryan, Consultant in Palliative Medicine at Dublin’s Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and St Francis Hospice will present findings of an innovative study “Heart Failure and Palliative Care” which includes a survey of nurses and doctors attitudes to working with people with heart failure in two Irish hospitals. .
The overall aim of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for patients and families faced with a life-limiting illness.

According to Dr Karen Ryan, ‘Many people mistakenly believe that you can only receive palliative care if you have cancer or if other treatments are no longer possible. Actually, palliative care can be provided to people of any age and at any stage of their illness. When you have a serious illness, such as heart failure, you may suffer from physical discomfort or feelings of psychological distress- palliative care can help improve quality of life while other cardiac treatments continue.’

Heart failure is a condition where the heart function is impaired and the heart fails to pump blood effectively around the body. People with heart failure can experience a wide range of symptoms including breathlessness, fatigue, pain, nausea, psychological distress and depression.
The potential to provide palliative care to people with heart failure is being increasingly recognised. There is a strong push within the healthcare profession to ensure that people with heart failure receive symptom relief, relief from worry and depression, carer support, careful communication and care planning.
And Dr Fliss Murtagh, King’s College London believes “There is an opportunity is to better address the symptoms, distress, information needs, and treatment preferences of those with advanced heart failure. The challenges are to work effectively with cardiology, primary care, community and palliative care colleagues so that this is delivered well and seamlessly for every individual concerned and their family.”
Irish Hospice Foundation Head of Healthcare Programmes Marie Lynch said the one day seminar is an ideal opportunity to share and learn from Ireland and the UK’s experience in this area to date and plan for the future. She said “The need for palliative care for people with heart failure is well recognised and indeed has been strengthened in the 67th World Health Assembly Resolution (2014). There is a dearth of practical examples as to how heart failure and palliative care teams can integrate this approach in their practice and work together so that people with heart failure have their palliative care needs identified and responded to throughout their disease trajectory”.

The seminar is a joint initiative between the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and the Irish Hospice Foundation. It is being held at the Fintan Gunne Lecture Theatre, Catherine McAuley Education & Research Centre, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin.