Delivering Palliative End of Life Care


Working In Partnership To Deliver Palliative End Of Life Care.

More than 600 calls and home visits have been made to people living with a terminal illness during the first three months of 2015, following the introduction of an enhanced Marie Curie Rapid Response service.

The service is the result of a £300K investment between the Health and Social Care Board, the Public Health Agency, and leading palliative and terminal illness charity Marie Curie. The service is also supported by Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS).

It will see Marie Curie palliative care nurses work in partnership with local GP Out of Hours and the Ambulance Service in providing a prompt and timely response to calls for care and assistance.  The nurses also offer telephone advice to families and patients who may not need a home visit, and urgent at home care to patients.

Launch of Marie Curie Rapid Response: Standing from left, Paula Heneghan (Regional Manager, Marie Curie  Northern Ireland), Dean Sullivan (Director of Commissioning, Health and Social Care Board) and Mary Hinds (Director of Nursing, Public Health Agency).  Seated: Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton and Sandra Fulton (Marie Curie nurse)

Launch of Marie Curie Rapid Response: Standing from left, Paula Heneghan (Regional Manager, Marie Curie Northern Ireland), Dean Sullivan (Director of Commissioning, Health and Social Care Board) and Mary Hinds (Director of Nursing, Public Health Agency). Seated: Health Minister, Simon Hamilton and Sandra Fulton (Marie Curie nurse)

Dean Sullivan, Director of Commissioning with the Health and Social Care Board says this newly enhanced service will strengthen the GP Out of Hours service and minimise the need for patients to be transferred unnecessarily by ambulance whilst giving peace of mind to loved ones at a stressful time.

Research has shown that patients near the end of their lives prefer to be treated away from hospital, and where possible, in their own homes.

Paula Heneghan, Regional Manager, Marie Curie Nursing Service is confident that the service will ensure patients receive care where they want it and when they need it.

“Marie Curie Rapid Response is a tried and tested service which has been running successfully in the evenings, on a week day basis in the Southern and Northern Health and Social Care Trust areas since 2008.

“This new investment will continue to provide flexible and responsive palliative nursing care at short notice to patients living with a terminal illness and will also help extend the existing GP Out of Hours service in key areas across Northern Ireland.”

Minister Simon Hamilton, who attended the launch of the service at Dalriada Urgent Care in Ballymena, praised the service as an excellent example of partnership working to support people, allowing them to be cared for at home at the end of life.

Ambulance Service assists in reducing unnecessary hospital admissions.

Increasingly, paramedics are attending patients with terminal or life limiting illness. Traditionally, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service’s (NIAS) only option was to transport the patient to the Emergency Department (ED) even though many people with a terminal illness wish to remain at home in comfortable and familiar surroundings. The NIAS is now supporting the Trusts and Marie Curie in delivering this Out of Hours Palliative Care service.

Health Minister, Simon Hamilton (right), Sandra Fulton, Marie Curie Nurse and Andrew Davison, Out of Hours driver.

Health Minister, Simon Hamilton (right), Sandra Fulton, Marie Curie Nurse and Andrew Davison, Out of Hours driver.

Below is a real example of how all partners of the new service are working together to ensure the best care for patients.

A recent 999 call was received from a Nursing Home in the Southern area for an elderly female in pain. An ambulance and rapid response vehicle were dispatched. On their arrival, they found a female patient who had a terminal illness and was experiencing severe pain. The patient already had a syringe driver in place and was receiving pain relief but this was now having little effect. The patient had expressed her wishes to die at home but now due to the pain she was considering going to hospital. This was upsetting for both the patient and also her family and friends who were with her.

Following a thorough patient assessment and taking into account the patient’s wishes, the crew were able to engage with the Out of Hours GP. The GP attended quickly and administered further pain relief. The GP and crew subsequently arranged for the Marie Curie nurse to attend. The nurse was able to offer enhanced care at the nursing home and ensure that patient did not attend the ED.

This service has now been used numerous times across Northern Ireland. Accessing this service ensures that patients are not unnecessarily transported to the ED but also ensures that their pain and other symptoms are appropriately managed at home. The aim of NIAS is to achieve the best quality of life for the patients and offer holistic support to their families

Investment and support in this service aligns with the Health and Social Care Board’s work under the Transforming Your Palliative and End of Life Care initiative.

Back to top