What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is the active, holistic care of patients with advanced, progressive illness. Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life for patients facing serious illness and for their families, through the assessment and management of physical symptoms, and psychological, spiritual and social issues. Many aspects of palliative care are applicable early in the course of an illness, in conjunction with other treatments. Palliative care involves a multidisciplinary approach to patient care, with input from physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, chaplains and other allied health professionals, all working together to improve a patient’s quality of life.
Hospital Supportive and Specialist Palliative Care Team
This is a team of hospital based consultants, clinical nurse specialists and pharmacists who specialise in palliative care. They offer specialist advice on complex symptoms such as pain, nausea and breathlessness. The team sees patients at any stage of their illness, from diagnosis onwards. They work alongside the ward-based teams, and provide a consultative service Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. Sometimes patients facing a potentially life-threatening illness may feel anxious or uncertain about the future, and may have many questions. The specialist palliative care team help support patients at this time and can also provide information about the illness, what help is available and how to access it. They can also advise on the palliative care services near the patient’s home, should the patient wish to avail of ongoing support. The team also liaises with GPs, community nursing services and other palliative care providers to ensure that appropriate information is transferred in a timely manner.
How are referrals made to the Belfast Trust Supportive and Specialist Palliative Care Team?
Any healthcare professional can refer a patient in hospital to the specialist palliative care team. The consultant/primary care team responsible for the patient should be made aware of the referral. Telephone referrals are made according to where the patient is based:
Belfast City Hospital Team: 028 95041000
Royal Victoria Hospital Team: 028 90634409
Mater Hospital Team: 028 95047287
An answering machine service is available and messages can be left when the telephone lines are busy or if outside of working hours.
For urgent advice at home, please contact your GP, District Nurse or Community Specialist Palliative Care Nurse.
Community Palliative Care Services
Key workers in the community
Your GP and your District Nurse remain the key workers for patients in the community. The District Nurse will do a palliative care assessment, and will organise more specialist nursing input if required.
On discharge from hospital or if based in the community, patients may require other services which include:
Trust, Community Multidisciplinary Specialist Oncology and Palliative Care Team
This is a team of professionals who work within the community in Belfast. The team includes doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians and speech and language therapists who specialise in oncology and palliative care.
They work alongside the GP, District Nurses and Community Specialist Palliative Care Nurses to provide clinical and social care support and advice for patients with complex needs within their own homes, including those who are in nursing or residential care.
Team members can work directly with patients who have complex symptoms or other health and social issues that are impacting upon their care, or they can support and advise community staff who are providing care to people with palliative needs.
The team also support the delivery of high quality palliative care through the provision of consultation and education for community based Health and Social care staff.
The service is available to health and social care staff Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm.
South and East Belfast Locality
(Call Management Centre) 028 90565565
North and West Belfast Locality
Nursing / Case Manager/Social work 028 90741188
Physiotherapist/OT/Speech and Language Therapist, Dietician—Call Management Centre (028) 9063 5300.
Northern Ireland Hospice Community Specialist Palliative Care Nurses/Hospice Nurse Specialists
These nurses are based in the community, and can give patients support in their own home. They can offer advice and information about the specific illness, including management of symptoms. They can also offer support and advice to carers. They work closely with GPs, District Nurses and other allied healthcare professionals in managing symptoms. Referrals for community specialist palliative care can be made on the Northern Ireland Hospice referral form.
Palliative Medicine Outpatients Clinic
Patients can be seen by a palliative medicine doctor in an outpatient setting, either as a follow-up to an inpatient stay or following a referral by their consultant/GP. The appointment will be at either the hospital or the local hospice.
Specialist Palliative Care Units / Hospices
There are occasions when admission to a specialist palliative care unit may be needed for management of complex symptoms, psychological or spiritual issues, complex rehabilitation or end of life care. Patients can be referred by their GP, their Hospice community nurse or their hospital palliative care team. In the Belfast area, there are 2 specialist palliative care units (Northern Ireland Hospice and Marie Curie Hospice). Referral forms can be accessed via the Trust Hub (palliative care section). Patients who live outside of the Belfast area can be referred to their local hospices by their attending health professional.
The Belfast area hospice units offer day services, with access to the wider multidisciplinary team - doctors, nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, complementary therapists. Day hospice offers a range of services, focused to the needs of the individual patient. Further details are available from the hospice units and community teams.