Leading article

Concerns raised over decisions affecting terminally ill patients

End of life care is a difficult subject for many of us. The knowledge that a loved one is going to die within a relatively short period presents all sorts of emotional and practical challenges.

There is coming to terms with a terminal diagnosis then making crucial decisions about where someone should spend their final days or weeks.

Most people would prefer to die at home and specialist community nurses and GPs work hard to provide palliative care in those circumstances.

But in more complex cases, patients may wish to be treated in the Northern Ireland Hospice, which provides care for thousands of seriously or terminally ill people every year.

There would probably be a perception among the public that when a patient is referred to the hospice, they are admitted almost immediately.

However, the hospice chief executive has revealed that patients reaching the end of their lives are being placed on waiting lists for beds in the newly-built facility on the Somerton Road in Belfast.

Heather Weir said there were a number of factors contributing to this situation including the collapse of the Stormont institutions and cuts to care packages.

A spike in the number of cancer patients in their 30s, 40s and 50s has also had an impact on demand. In those cases admission to a nursing home would not be suitable.

It must be acknowledged that the work of both the adult hospice and the children's regional hospice in Newtownabbey, are important additions to the health service care provided in hospitals and the community.

In terms of children with terminal illnesses, their families had hoped that a ten-year plan to improve their care and support would already be under way.

But we are told that due to financial constraints the strategy has been shelved, even though it was completed in 2015 and sanctioned by then health minister Michelle O'Neill a year ago.

This development is deeply disappointing and has caused anger among parents who had contributed to the strategy.

Even without a Stormont administration, we still need to have full transparency and detailed explanations for the decisions that are affecting lives in Northern Ireland.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Leading article