Supportive & Palliative Care
Your primary consultant needs to refer you to the supportive and palliative care service. This can be done while you are an inpatient, or while you are in day oncology or radiotherapy.
About our services
We work with you and your medical team to manage your symptoms and ensure that your quality of life is maintained. When you are first referred we may see you as an outpatient in day oncology or radiotherapy when you are having your treatment, or we may see you as an inpatient. Our role also involves us referring to and liaising with community specialist palliative care teams and general practitioners.
Frequently asked questions
Supportive care means that a patient’s symptoms are assessed and managed, and that their goals of care are taken into account and used to inform their treatment plan.
Many patients who require active treatment, such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or immunotherapy, develop a symptom burden from a combination of symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and other side effects.
Supportive care provides expert symptom management to alleviate these symptoms during the treatment phase and is available to inpatients, day oncology patients and radiotherapy patients.
Supportive care also helps you to manage not just your medical condition but physical, emotional, spiritual and practical matters before, during and after treatment.
Specialist palliative care is an approach to care that focuses on helping you to live well when you have an advanced disease that is life-limiting. We work closely with your healthcare team to support you, your family and friends. Our aim is to maximise your quality of life by treating and relieving the symptoms and side effects associated with your illness.
Needs often differ at certain times during the illness – there may be a greater need for support at diagnosis, or at the time of a relapse, or at the end of life.
Anyone who is living with an incurable illness may benefit from a referral to supportive and specialist palliative care.
This may include, for example, people with all types of cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, dementia and neurological conditions and their families. Specialist palliative care is also important for patients during the last few days, weeks or months of life, to maximise comfort and quality of life.
Not all patients who would benefit from supportive and specialist palliative care are about to die. Many patients live with their condition and have extended periods of feeling very well. Patients are able to move into and out of the service as their needs change.
- We offer you and your family advice to help manage your physical symptoms due to either your illness or the treatment you are receiving.
- We support you and your family as you face a serious illness.
- We offer practical suggestions to help you do things that may be important to you and your family.
- We assist in planning your discharge alongside your team.
- We inform you of services that may be helpful to you for example, supports available at home, support centres and other services.
- We assist you in planning your future care.
- We provide end-of-life care.
The term ‘end of life’ usually refers to the last year of life, although for some people this may be shorter. End-of-life care is one part of what the supportive and palliative care team do. Our aim is to care holistically for the patient, looking after their physical, psychological, spiritual/cultural and emotional and social/economic needs. Our goal is that the patient’s final journey will be peaceful and dignified, and that the patient’s family are supported.
Benefits of involving supportive and palliative care
Research now shows that patients and families who have supportive and palliative care involvement at an early stage in their illness not only have a better quality of life but that they also survive longer.
Supportive care is provide alongside medical care. Many patients avail of supportive and palliative care services for months or years. Involving the supportive team early may give you and your family an opportunity, while you are well enough, to discuss your future care and what your wishes are. It is more difficult to have these conversations while you are ill. We are aware these are difficult conversations to have, and if you do not wish to discuss your future care this will be respected.
The supportive and palliative care team
The supportive and palliative care team consists of a consultant in supportive and palliative medicine and a specialist nurse. We work alongside your primary care team as an advisory service. Our aim is to provide holistic care to you and to support your family. We also work closely with the multi-disciplinary team which provides physiotherapy, social work, occupational therapy, dietetics and religious support.