Bereavement Support Line 1800 80 70 77

Statement ¦ HSE Service plan is “swings and roundabouts” for palliative care

Thursday 19 December 2019

The Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) said today the HSE Service Plan for 2020 is “swings and roundabouts” for palliative care in Ireland with some services rightly benefiting but the sector as a whole losing out.

While warmly welcoming the additional €10 million in the Service Plan for the opening of 55 more hospice beds in Mayo, Waterford, Wicklow and Kildare, IHF CEO Sharon Foley, expressed disappointment that there is no additional development funding for palliative care programmes nationally, as envisaged in Sláintecare.

“The funding for the new hospices in Mayo, Waterford and Wicklow and the additional beds in Kildare is most welcome. The tireless work of the voluntary hospice movement and the generosity of the general public has funded the building of these hospices. It is appropriate the State now fund the operation of them to ensure more people have the benefit of in-patient hospice care when they need it. We had hoped there would be a sign of investment in the development of palliative care in areas such as the Midlands and North East where there is no specialist in-patient unit. Thankfully, most of us will not require specialist palliative care in an in-patient unit, but will hopefully have our palliative and end-of-life care needs met by our GP or other clinicians. But, for those of us who do require specialist services, our level of access should not be determined by where we live. Similarly, there is no increase in funding for children’s palliative care which requires further investment across the country. 

The State has developed palliative care and provides it in many settings. But, the sector is still fragile, and prone to shocks.  There is a growing population and the number of those expected to die each year will rise by 25% by 2031.  Without proper forward planning for end of life nationally, there will be no future for the Development Framework for Palliative Care, the Children’s Palliative Care Programme or for the plans in Sláintecare. Without such funding palliative care services nationally will continue to be an “add-on” dependent on charitable funding. Collectively, both the State and its citizens need to support the development of regional and local palliative care services. But, the State must take its responsibilities seriously.

While this year’s increase is welcome, the palliative care budget as a percentage of the whole health budget has remained almost static since 2017 showing only a 0.03% increase in that timeframe.

For each person’s death there is only once chance to get it right and lots of chances to get it wrong. If we want to get it right more and more often, we need to build in development funding for these services properly and promptly.”