The Irish Hospice Foundation, (IHF), today welcomed the report from the Dail Committee on Health and Children calling for the development of a national strategy on palliative care, end of life and bereavement.
Chief Executive Officer of the IHF, Sharon Foley, said she hoped the government will act on the findings of the report and put palliative and end of life care at the top of health and other policy agendas. She commended the Dail Committee chairman, Jerry Buttimer TD, and members for the hearings saying “a great service” had been done for the country.
Ms Foley said on average 29,000 people die in Ireland each year and as many as 290,000 are left bereaved annually. Using international research, there is an estimated €1.3 billion being spent on end of life care every year, but this spend is largely unplanned and uncoordinated.
“We passionately believe that much more can be done to support the health and social services to deliver better end of life care everywhere and this report is a major step in this direction.”
“It is the right of every person to die in comfort and dignity but this is something we must plan for. It is possible to secure high quality care for those facing death while also ensuring the very best use of resources. A national strategy on palliative care, end of life and bereavement, as recommended in todays report, will play a key role in ensuring this.”
Ms Foley said this strategy must be for the entire population – from those who need GP support to those who need special palliative care to manage their pain and other complex symptoms and to those left behind and facing grief. The strategy, she stressed, needs to be relevant to patients of all ages with all conditions including dementia.
“It also needs to be wider than healthcare. It needs to look at the economic, administrative and legal issues including the funeral industry and bereavement.”
Ms Foley also welcomed the committee recommendation that the Government address the regional disparities which exist in the provision and funding of specialist palliative care services in Ireland.
“As many as 2,500 patients have no access to in-patient hospice care in their area as they don’t exist. We have three regions in Ireland with no in patient hospice units – the north east, the midlands and the south east, as well as Kerry, Wicklow and Mayo. Citizens are living and dying with an inequitable system. We have approximately 150 hospice beds today but we should have 450 and we also have significant deficits in hospice staff. “
Ms Foley said more need to be done to help people fulfil their wish to die at home. Figures show that while 67 per cent of us would prefer to die at home only 26 per cent of us will do so while another 25 per cent will die in long stay settings. “Lots of good work is being done through the IHF Primary Palliative Care programme, the Hospice home care teams and national hospice homecare for children programme. In the latter, we we are funding 85% of the programme which is supporting families to care for children, with life limiting illness, at home.”
“This report, along with the recent report by the Ombudsman on end of life, will make a serious contribution to the national conversation on death and dying and bereavement and I warmly welcome it.”
Note: Link to Oireachtas Committee report on End of Life launched today http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/oireachtasbusiness/committees_list/health-and-children/reports/