Raising awareness of incredible and vital work in Palliative Care

21st September 2022
Cancer Nurse Specialist, Joanne Gallagher

“Without all this help coming into my home I would be lost.” The words of a patient who receives palliative care in the South Eastern Trust.

Palliative Care aims to improve the quality of life of people living with an illness or condition that may limit or shorten their lives.  It is important to know that not everyone who receives palliative care is in the final stages of an illness; some people receive palliative care for many years to support them in coping with their condition.

The Acute Specialist Palliative Care Team is based at the Ulster Hospital is a multidisciplinary team, with Consultants, Speciality Doctors, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Educational Nurses, Pharmacists and a Chaplain all working together to ensure their patient’s needs are met.  The Team offer advice and support to Clinical Ward Teams, patients and their families. They work in partnership with a number of charity organisations including Marie Curie, Northern Ireland Hospice, Macmillan Cancer support, Cancer Focus and Action Cancer and also have working relationships with the All Ireland Institute for Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC) as well as Queen’s and Ulster Universities.

The Trust operates a Community Specialist Palliative Care Team in the Down & Lisburn and North Down & Ards areas, that provide complex symptom management, alongside holistic and highly specialised rehabilitation. This team is comprised of a number of Palliative Care Specialists including; Speech and Language Therapists, who help to improve and sustain their patients communication skills and aid safe swallowing; Physiotherapists, who focus on non-pharmacological management of symptoms; Dieticians who aim to optimise nutrition and maintain a patients quality of life, helping them to focus on the food they enjoy and Occupational Therapists who help patients to continue to participate in daily activities that have meaning and value in their lives, by providing them with aids and equipment to assist them to stay active.

One of the benefits of this inter-professional specialist team is that by working together cohesively, they can ensure that their patients receive appropriate, timely and adaptable services to address their individual and ever changing needs. They work closely with patients and their families to help them to set realistic and achievable goals, undertaking a number of assessments to establish the patient’s main needs and look at key areas of care including; their physical and psychological ability along with their social and emotional needs to ensure that an individualised health care plan is created.

This approach makes a real difference in the lives of patients and great feedback has been received. One patient explained, “I am amazed at the amount of help I’m getting, especially knowing the pressure the pandemic has caused on the health service. My family live in England, so having this service puts their minds at ease as they know about the great support I am receiving.”

Clinical Nurse Specialist, Joanne Gallagher enjoys working within the Palliative Care Team and explained, “I am very grateful to work as part of such an excellent multi-disciplinary team. We strive to provide high quality specialist palliative care to patients with complex physical, psychological and spiritual needs. I really enjoy the variety of my job, meeting with people from all different walks of life and being able to give advice and support to those who are affected by a palliative diagnosis. It can be a challenging role but a highly rewarding one.”

Palliative Medicine Consultant, Tracy Anderson who works across the Acute and Community Palliative Care Team says, “I enjoy palliative medicine because of the focus on ensuring patients are comfortable physically towards the end of life, but also that they and their families are supported emotionally and spiritually. Working in acute hospital and community palliative care allows continuity of care and a good relationship to be built with patients and family.

If you would like to access the Community Specialist Palliative Care Team please speak to your GP, District Nurse or Hospital Consultant. For advice or enquires please contact:

Down and Lisburn Area (028) 9263 3568

North Down and Ards (028) 9151 0285