Hospital Care

A hospital can often be the first place where people hear the term palliative care. Below an overview is provided of the role of hospitals in providing palliative care

Rory WilkinsonClinical Nurse Specialist in Palliative Care, St James Hospital 

Most people who are admitted to an acute general hospital receive treatment for their illness and get better enough to go home. Unfortunately there are a small number of people who will not get better and this may impact on the quality and length of their life. The discovery that you or a loved one has an incurable life limiting illness is a very difficult and frightening time. Patients who have complex needs, around their illness, may be referred to the palliative care team. The palliative care team is there to treat the symptoms of the disease and provide psychological, social and spiritual support to you and your family.  


The Palliative Care Team
in an acute general hospital is made up of a number of different health care workers. These are Consultant Palliative Care Doctors, Palliative Care Registrars (senior doctors), Specialist Palliative Care Nurses, Medical Social Workers and Clerical Staff. They advise and make suggestions to your primary team on a number of important issues. 

Some palliative care teams work as a “referral service” only which means that your primary consultant has to invite them (in the first instance) to become involved in your or your loved ones care. Other palliative care teams are able to directly admit patients into a hospital and care for them. This will depend on what arrangements are in place in your hospital. 

  • It is recognised that general hospitals are by nature busy places. Patients and families can feel very vulnerable and sometimes you may feel that things are outside of your control. The palliative care team will work with you and your family to ensure that: 
  • You are helped to be as physically well as possible. This is done through detailed assessment of your symptoms. A plan of care with the best treatment options will then be started. 
  • You and your family are provided with the emotional support and advice to work through the stress that comes with having a life threatening illness. 
  • You feel safe, informed and supported. 
  • You are treated with dignity and respect. 
  • You are treated as an individual person.
  • Your views and preferences are sought and that these are communicated clearly to others involved in your care. 
  • You are provided with the support and advice to work through the practical issues that come with having a life threatening illness. This may be done working alongside some of the other health care workers in the hospital. For example Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists. 
  • Time is provided to help you explore your spiritual needs.

The palliative care team will also work with you, your family and other healthcare professional in the hospital to make out a plan for your future care. Palliative care can be provided in a variety of settings:

  • The acute general hospital.
  • In your own home. 
  • In a palliative care out-patients department.
  • In a day Hospice.
  • As an inpatient in a hospice. 

In reality you may move from setting to another according to your needs. The palliative care team will work to ensure a smooth transition from one setting to the other.  

A directory of Palliative Care Services can be found on the Irish Association of Palliative Care website: www.iapc.ie/iapc-directory.php