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Transforming Palliative Care in Ireland

Resource type: Grantee Story

In February 2012, the staff and patients at St Patrick’s Hospital Marymount Hospice in Cork moved from an old Victorian red brick building where the hospice had operated for 141 years to a new, best-in-class hospital that is the most advanced palliative care facility in Ireland. The visionary behind this new building was Founding Chairman Chuck Feeney, and today Marymount serves as a model of excellence in Ireland and a blueprint for hospice development worldwide.

Atlantic’s effort to ensure high-quality end-of-life care began with a 2004 survey that found that too few people near death in Ireland were receiving appropriate hospice and palliative care. The study revealed huge disparities in access to care and significant gaps in service, prompting Atlantic to make investments that will turn Ireland into one of the best places to experience end-of-life care.

The Hospice-Friendly Hospitals (HfH) programme of the Irish Hospice Foundation is a unique model of caregiving that ensures that end-of-life care is central to hospital practice. The programme operates in 80 per cent of acute hospitals and up to 50 community hospitals throughout the country.

HfH surveyed thousands of staff and relatives of patients to assess the quality of care provided by Irish hospitals during the last week of life. This study resulted in: At least half of all deaths in Ireland each year are in acute hospitals or hospices, increasing the need for better end-of-life care in those settings.

  • The production of “Quality Standards for End-of-Life Care in Hospitals,” a first in the European Union
  • An evidence-based “Ethical Framework for End-of-Life Care,” unique in the world
  • Over 1,000 hospital staff trained to enhance interaction with patients and families.

Most people in Ireland want to die at home.

  • The Milford Care Centre (MCC) is committed to reducing the number of palliative care patients dying in acute hospitals and increasing access to high quality care in communities throughout the Mid West region of Ireland
  • The organisation has made inroads. In 2011, only 6 per cent of the 801 deaths recorded by MCC were in acute settings, 33 per cent in a palliative care unit and 61 per cent in the community
  • The government’s Health Service Executive funds 50 per cent of the Milford’s Hospice at Home programme, and has committed to an 80:20 funding split with MCC, beginning in 2014.

Grantees are creating blueprints for care and collaboration.

Atlantic has invested €26.8 million ($36.1 million) in this area, and its support has increased access to appropriate care in home, hospice and hospital settings; increased awareness of palliative care practices; and facilitated coordination among practitioners to improve practice and inform health policy.

Giving While LivingGiving While Living: Marking 30 Years of Achievements: 1982–2012

> Read more stories of impact in our 30th anniversary publication

All-Ireland Institute for Hospice and Palliative Care, Health Service ExecutiveIrish Association for Palliative Care, Marymount Hospice, Milford Care Centre and St Patrick’s Hospital, Cork are also Atlantic grantees for palliative care.

Related Resources


Aging, Palliative Care

Global Impact:

Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland