Press Release 

12th September 2021

4 out of 5 people if living with a serious illness would like their doctor to talk to them about palliative care
Almost 70% say they don’t mind where they receive palliative care as long as they have a good quality of life

More than 4 in 5 if living with a serious illness would like their doctor or healthcare professional to talk to them about palliative care if it could help them. The finding is from a new survey of the public’s perceptions of palliative care commissioned by the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC) to highlight Palliative Care Week (12 – 18 September 2021). The theme for the eighth annual Palliative Care Week is, ‘Palliative Care: It’s More Than You Think’.

The survey of 500 people in Northern Ireland carried out in July 2021, also highlighted some of the misconceptions that exist about palliative care.

  • more than 1 in 3 people would think they only have days to live if their doctor or healthcare professional talked to them about palliative care, whereas palliative care may be appropriate for several years, not just for weeks and days at a person’s end of life.
  • more than 1 in 4 would feel their doctor is giving up on them if they talked to them about palliative care.
  • 66% say they don’t mind where they receive palliative care as long as they have a good quality of life and their physical and emotional pain is managed, and they are comfortable. Palliative care can be received in many different settings, such as in a hospice/specialist palliative care unit, a hospital, a nursing home, or the person’s own home.

Speaking ahead of Palliative Care Week 2021, Minister for Health, Robin Swann said:

“Palliative care is a key part of health and social care in Northern Ireland, involving a wide range of professionals providing the highest standard of care.  The service delivery challenges faced by our health and social care professionals, throughout the pandemic, has brought the vital role of palliative care in maintaining the quality of life for people with life-limiting conditions into sharp focus. 

“Though it can be difficult to face serious illness, there is support available that can help to reduce feelings of isolation, allow people to share experiences with others and provide access to information, advice and practical help.  It is also important for all of us to think about and have conversations about future care – and to do this before the need may arise.  This Palliative Care Week, I would encourage you to have these Advance Care Planning conversations and to find out more about palliative care.”

AIIHPC Director, Karen Charnley, said:

“Palliative Care Week aims to help people to understand that there is more to this important care than they might realise. This week we would like individuals and families to think about palliative care and how it could help them in the future. 78% of our survey respondents say that palliative care is very beneficial and supports those living with any serious illness, and their families. 

“It’s also clear from our findings that people, if living with a serious illness would like to talk to their doctor about palliative care and that the general awareness about palliative care is growing. For example, this year 60% of our survey respondents understand that palliative care is not only for cancer but for people with all types of life-limiting conditions, and of all ages and stages of their illness.”

Paul Cavanagh, Health and Social Care Board Interim Director of Commissioning and co-chair of the programme board for the regional Northern Ireland Palliative Care in Partnership programme, welcomed the public’s willingness to talk about palliative care.

Mr Cavanagh said:

“The Palliative Care in Partnership programme aims to ensure that people are identified as early as possible for support, where their quality of life could be improved by palliative care. It is encouraging that people are willing to talk to their health and social care professional about palliative care. These are very important opportunities for people to talk about what matters to them and for appropriate support to be provided to sustain and improve their quality of life, for weeks, months and years.”

Professor Joanne Reid is Professor of Cancer and Palliative Care in the School of Nursing and Midwifery in Queen’s University Belfast. From AIIHPC’s survey, 67% of survey respondents say if they were living with a serious illness, they would prefer to have palliative care at home. Research led by Professor Reid and funded by Marie Curie shows the need for palliative care is set to increase over the next 20-years across Northern Ireland, particularly within community settings:

“Current analysis shows a growing and ageing population will contribute to a significant increase in the number of deaths of older people in Northern Ireland by 2040. Northern Ireland data also shows that between 2004 and 2018 dying in hospital was the most common care setting at the end of life.  However, by 2018, deaths in hospitals, hospices, and ‘all other places’ decreased whereas deaths at home and in care homes increased. 

“The current analysis suggests that if Northern Ireland’s place of death trends continue, the need for end of life care will increase over the next 20-years, particularly within community settings. Continued investment will also be needed to ensure community settings can meet these fundamental care and specialist support needs.”

Palliative Care Week reflects AIIHPC’s commitment to raising awareness of the positive impact that palliative care has on the lives of people with serious health conditions and those closest to them – it allows them to live their lives as fully as they can by supporting their physical, social, emotional and spiritual health needs. The week also recognises the role of all our healthcare professionals who come together, even throughout a global pandemic, to provide palliative care services and support in communities all across the island of Ireland.

Visit to find out more.


For further information or to request an interview contact:

Sarah Dunne, +353 85 853 5647 or
Robyn Keleghan, +353 85 800 1275 or

Photo caption:

Minister for Health Northern Ireland, Robin Swann and Director of All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care, Karen Charnley, pictured at the launch of Palliative Care Week 2021. Palliative Care Week takes place from 12-18 September 2021

Notes to Editors:

  • *iReach survey of 500 people in Northern Ireland conducted in July 2021 – see link to infographic of key results below.

Infographic on perceptions of palliative care

  • Karen Charnley, AIIHPC Director, is available for interviews
  • A video message from Minister for Health Robin Swann in support of Palliative Care Week can be viewed here
  • Press Eye will issue images to photo desks today for reproduction free-of-charge
  • Palliative care is delivered by a wide range health and social professionals including doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, psychologists, dieticians, chaplains and more.
  • The references for Professor Joanne’s Reid’s presentation isMcKeaveney, C., McConnell, T., Harrison, C., Stone, V., & Reid, J. (2020). Population-based projections of place of death for Northern Ireland by 2040. Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care. Link  
  • To request an interview with Professor Joanne Reiduse the contact details above.

Additional Information on Palliative Care Requirements:

  • Evidence suggests that between 75% and 80% of people who die have conditions that would benefit from some palliative care services, with the potential to support their quality of life for weeks, months and years.
  • The need for palliative care is increasing across the island of Ireland. The number of people dying in Northern Ireland over 25-years from 2016 to 2041 is projected to increase by 32 per cent (from 15,300 to 20,300) – NISRA Statistical Bulletin (October 2017).
  • The number of deaths in the Republic of Ireland (which is a good indicator of likely palliative care needs) is projected to rise to 54,000 by 2050, representing a rise of 74% since 2016.

About All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care:

All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC) is a collaborative of hospices, health and social care organisations and universities on the island of Ireland. AIIHPC advances education, research and practice to improve the palliative care experience of people with life-limiting conditions and their families.

AIIHPC works with a group of visionary partners who recognise the value of working together to achieve a better, richer experience of palliative care for people with life-limiting conditions. The organisation’s 26 partners (15 Republic of Ireland / 11 Northern Ireland) are:

An Roinn Sláinte / Department of Health

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Dublin City University

Dublin University Trinity College

Galway Hospice Foundation

Irish Hospice Foundation

Lauralynn Children’s Hospice

Macmillan Cancer Support NI

Marie Curie

Marymount University Hospital & Hospice

Milford Care Centre

National University of Ireland Galway

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

Northern Ireland Hospice

North West Hospice

Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services

Public Health Agency

Queen’s University Belfast

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

St. Francis Hospice

Ulster University

University College Cork

University College Dublin

Waterford Institute of Technology

Western Health and Social Care Trust.

AIIHPC receives funding from a range of sources including the Health Service Executive, Department of Health (NI), Department of Health (RoI), Public Health Agency, Health Research Board, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the Irish Hospice Foundation.