Why I welcome Marie Curie's Triggers for palliative care report

A man in bed laughing with his nurse

When individuals and families first come into contact with palliative care services it is often at a very stressful time, and is perhaps at the end of a very long period involving many healthcare professionals. 

It is a service that is often seen as the reserve of those living with cancer, but it also affects many people with a diverse range of illness such as heart failure, motor neurone disease, dementia and multiple sclerosis.

What is important is that the service is simple to access, easy to navigate and is recognised a service that helps people for much more than just the last few days of life. The staff who work in this field are caring, sensitive and well-trained professionals, but sometimes even they find the organisation of the range of available services difficult to put together in a way that is easily understood by the individual and their families.

Meeting future challenges

Palliative care services have undoubtedly made strides in both accessibility and scale of support that is available, but it needs to recognise the challenges the future will bring. The Triggers for palliative care report produced by Marie Curie makes a very important contribution into looking at how this can be done better for people into the future.

The report acknowledges the developments in palliative care, but challenges the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that the policy is modern and effective. It articulates the need to both use existing resources more efficiently and provide additional funding. The report also challenges commissioners, trusts and primary care providers to think more constructively about how such services are developed and provided.

Finally, it sets the scene for individuals and families to have a more open debate about palliative care services. In this regard it emphasises organising services in such a way that they concentrate on the individual’s needs, ensuring personal dignity with all that means at a very challenging time… which is one we will all experience.