Call for end-of-life strategy in hospitals

Oireachtas committee calls for action on regional disparities in hospice services

An Oireachtas committee has asked that hospitals draw up an end-of-life strategy. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

An Oireachtas committee has asked that hospitals draw up an end-of-life strategy. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 12:36

All hospitals should draw up strategies for dealing with end-of-life care and bereavement, according to a new report published today.

The report by the Oireachtas health committee says a designated person within each hospital should be given responsibility for implementing and ensuring compliance with the strategy. The provision of single rooms for patients who are dying should be considered a priority.

The committee says the Department of Health should consider legislatively underpinning quality standards on end of life care as well as prioritising a national strategy on palliative care, end of life and bereavement.

With so many competing demands on the health budget, the report suggests palliative care funding could be ring-fenced for five years to prevent existing services being undermined and to protect future investment in the sector.

It also recommends that the Government address regional disparities in the provision of specialist palliative care services to ensure the needs of all are met, whether in the home, the community or a specialised hospice. A particular priority is the development of capital projects related for specialist palliative care in-patient units in the midlands, north east and south east.

A 2010 report by the Economist Intelligence Unit rated Ireland fourth overall out of 40 countries for care services, and fifth for quality of death. It was also noted the Ireland had one of the highest levels of debate about end of life care.

“However, evidence presented to the Joint Committee at its hearings on this issue suggests that significant deficiencies exist in the provision of end of life and palliative care in Ireland, in particular, inequalities based solely on geographic location,” said committee chairman Jerry Buttimer.

“This report focuses on the most significant issues identified throughout the course of the committee’s deliberations and sets out the key facts and figures presented by stakeholders, and identifies a number of key issues upon which its bases its conclusions.”

The report contains 37 recommendations and was compiled following a consultation process with groups active in the sector.