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Lack of hospice services in North East highlighted in new report

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A new report from the Irish Hospice Foundation has shown that the North East – which comprises Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan-  has no hospice service, at a time when up to 2,500 terminally-ill patients are being denied access to inpatient care each year.

The Midlands – Laois, Offaly, Westmeath and Longford – and the south east – also have no hospice services, with the IHF insisting that three times as many hospice beds are needed in the country at present to meet demand.

IHF chief executive Sharon Foley said in some areas of the country patients at their most vulnerable are being denied access to services simply because of where they live.

She added: “Not having access to inpatient hospice beds has a critical impact on whether a patient dies in an acute hospital or not.

“We are calling on the government to explore what might be achievable through a broad end-of-life strategy.”

An estimated 6,000 people died in a hospice last year but areas with limited access to a hospice recorded more cancer deaths in hospital.

Cancer is Ireland’s second biggest killer, accounting for more than 8,000 deaths – more then a quarter of the death toll.

The IHF said going by current population figures, there should be 450 hospice beds in the country but only 155 hospice beds are available.

The report found home care services in areas where palliative care is under-resourced was better than in regions with hospice beds, with the number of home care nurses per patient population in the north east, the midlands and the south east higher than the national average.

It also revealed the estimated cost per patient receiving specialist palliative home care support is just €686.

Dr Kathy McLoughlin, who also worked on the report, said many international studies indicate savings when patients access hospice programmes.

“They also show improved length of life, better symptom control and patient and carer experience,” she added.

“Hospice services can provide real savings to the healthcare system and meet the needs of patients.

“By ensuring that patients with life-limiting conditions are cared for in the most appropriate setting for their needs such as hospices, the State can secure the more efficient use of acute hospital resources.”