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HSE National Clinical Programme for Palliative Care

The HSE National Clinical Programme for Palliative Care was established in 2010 as a joint initiative of the HSE Clinical Strategy and Programmes Division and the Royal College of Physicians.

The programme aims to ensure that persons with life-limiting conditions and their families can easily access a level of palliative care service that is appropriate to their needs regardless of care setting or diagnosis.

About the Programme

The aim of the National Clinical Programme for Palliative Care is: To ensure that patients with life-limiting conditions and families can easily access a level of palliative care service that is appropriate to their needs regardless of care setting or diagnosis.

The National Clinical Programme for Palliative Care reports to the National Director Clinical Strategy and Programmes, HSE.

The Clinical Lead, Nursing Lead and Programme Manager work together to ensure the delivery of the objectives of the programme and the programme manager is responsible for reporting to the HSE and RCPI. The Clinical Advisory Group provides clinical oversight and strategic guidance to the programme. It is an RCPI committee and all palliative medicine consultants in Ireland are invited to become members.

The multidisciplinary Working Group is tasked with agreeing and facilitating the implementation of the work-plan, devised to deliver the objectives of the programme. The working group is chaired by the Clinical Lead. Sub groups may be established to work on specific work-streams; including members with the required expertise in the area of practice.

Collaboration with other programmes is encouraged and facilitated where possible.

The programme works closely with external strategic partners in palliative care including the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC), the Irish Association for Palliative Care (IAPC), the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) and Irish Palliative Medicine Consultants Association (IPMCA).

The Programme works in close cooperation with the National Director & General Manager for Palliative Care. As Palliative Care is provided in all healthcare settings, the Programme actively engages with all appropriate Health Service Divisions to support a system wide approach in progressing Programme workstreams and developments.


(i) Eligibility Criteria for Access to & Discharge from Specialist Palliative Care Services Download

(ii) Specialist Palliative Care Referral Pathway Download

(iii) Specialist Palliative Care Referral Form Download

(iv) Rapid Discharge Guidance– The aim of this guidance document and supporting tools is to facilitate the rapid discharge of persons from hospital who wish to die at home.  In the link below you will find a guidance document, presentation, summary steps and useful documents to allow healthcare teams to plan and enable discharge where possible.

(v) Needs Assessment Guidance– This document provides guidance to health and social care professionals who provide or co-ordinate the care of people with life-limiting conditions. It helps professionals to assess the palliative care needs of patients with life-limiting conditions and to decide when it is appropriate to refer to a specialist palliative care service. The document is supported by a work based education programme including online learning modules developed in collaboration with the AIIHPC.

(vi) Continuous Quality Improvement in Palliative Care, National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare– The purpose of the workbooks is to assist specialist palliative care services in preparing for licensing and engaging in continuous quality improvement. A number of documents were of particular help in this process, namely the ‘Towards Excellence in Palliative Care Self Assessment Tool’ (developed by the HSE South Area Development Committee in Palliative Care and HSE South Regional Quality and Patient Safety Department) and the HSE Quality and Patient Safety Division’s Quality Assessment and Improvement Workbooks for Acute Hospital services.

(vii) Role Delineation Framework – The aim of this guide is to provide a consistent language and set of descriptors that healthcare providers and planners can use when describing palliative care services and as a tool when planning service development. Understanding the place and relationships of individual service providers within the broader landscape of palliative care provision contributes to patient flow by allowing seamless transfer of patients between care settings or service levels, as and when their condition or circumstances change.

(viii) National Palliative Care Support Beds Survey – “The National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care (NACPC) Report, (Department of Health and Children, 2001) introduced the idea of palliative care support beds (PCSBs) as a way to provide an intermediate level of in-patient palliative care for patients in a local environment, typically in designated centres for older people. Although in 2011, 179 PCSBs were reported to exist there is much regional variation in organisation and capacity. The National Clinical Programme for Palliative Care Working Group identified the need to conduct a review of the organisation and function of PCSBs in Ireland in order to provide strategic direction on the future of the services provided. The Group established the PCSB subgroup in December 2011 with the following aims:

  • To describe the current organisation and function of the palliative care support beds,
  • To conduct further analysis of the contribution/ value the beds offer to the system,
  • Produce recommendations about the development of palliative care support beds.