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RTÉ’s health special highlights challenges to ensure dignity at end of life

Author: Mary Ellen Breen
24 February 2016

The Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) is calling for a more cohesive approach to end of life care across the whole health service following RTÉ’s The Big Picture health special – which revealed the lack of privacy for patients dying in hospital.

The IHF’s campaign “Dying is everyone’s business” highlights what the government needs to do to support the 80 people who die every day in Ireland and their bereaved families.

CEO of The Irish Hospice Foundation, Sharon Foley said, “There are challenging circumstances for all hospitals in dealing with patients at end of life. Conditions were less than ideal for the family in this situation, but also for the health care professionals caring for them. Unfortunately – this is not an isolated case – and hospitals face difficulties of overcrowding every day. Everyone deserves to have a good death, but unfortunately not everyone can expect it at present. This painful event for this particular family highlights the need for a robust and cohesive approach to end of life care across the whole health care service.” 

The IHF has written to all politicians in advance of the General Election with five key asks aimed at improving end of life care for people in Ireland.


1.      Lead a strategic approach to end-of-life issues and bereavement across all areas of Government and society

2.      Bridge the gaps and inequalities in local hospice and specialist palliative care services – particularly in the Midlands and North East where there is no specialist in-patient unit. 

3.      Support, enable and encourage people of all ages to discuss and plan for end-of-life needs – utilising the Think Ahead form ( including the speedy commencement of the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 and its provisions on Advance Healthcare Directives.

4.      Extend Children’s Palliative Care services to include the appointment of a second consultant paediatrician with a special interest in palliative care for Temple Street Hospital and additional outreach nurses to cover areas currently not sufficiently served by the service.

5.      Plan sustainable funding for Night Nursing Service currently provided by IHF and the Irish Cancer Society. In 2015 in IHF provided over 1,700 nights of care to 540 families. One night of nursing care costs €320 compared to €827 per night for a bed in an acute ward.

In 2007 The Irish Hospice Foundation, in partnership with the Health Service Executive, established the Hospice Friendly Hospitals Programme which aims to ensure that end of life, palliative and bereavement care is central to the everyday business of hospitals. Over 40 acute hospitals countrywide have joined the programme including University Hospital Limerick which also employs a full time End of Life Care Co-ordinator who supports all hospital activities associated with improving end of life care for patients and their families.


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