Six in ten people think Covid-19 has increased the importance of discussing palliative care. The finding is from a new survey of perceptions of palliative care commissioned by the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC) to highlight Palliative Care Week (13th to 19th September). The tagline and theme for the seventh annual Palliative Care Week is ‘Palliative Care: In This Together’.

The survey of people in Northern Ireland, carried out in July 2020, also found that 3 in 4 people would like to be supported to discuss and write down their wishes and preferences for care at the end of life.

The findings also demonstrate that misconceptions exist about palliative care. The survey found that 1 in 3 people think palliative care is a last resort, whereas palliative care may be appropriate for a number of years, not just for weeks and days at the end of life. It also found that nearly 1 in 3 people think that palliative care is only for people with advanced cancer, whereas everyone living with a life-limiting illness can benefit from palliative care.

Palliative Care Week, facilitated by AIIHPC, aims to raise awareness across the island of Ireland about the positive difference palliative care can make to people with life-limiting conditions and their carers and families. The focus of the week is for people to get better informed about palliative care and its benefits while helping to remove any stigmas or misconceptions about palliative care.

Marking Palliative Care Week 2020, Minister for Health, Robin Swann, said: “I am supporting this year’s Palliative Care Week to encourage a broader public discussion on this important issue. Good palliative care can support people living with life-limiting conditions to live well, making a real difference both for them and those who are important to them. We all need to be part of this wider conversation to help raise awareness and dispel the misconceptions around palliative care. That includes, at an individual level, thinking about the things that matter to us and having conversations with our loved ones about our preferences and wishes for our future care.”

Palliative care puts the individual at the centre of care and supports their physical, social, psychological and spiritual health needs. It requires a broad range of professionals, family carers and communities working together to support the person with a serious health condition and those closest to them. Palliative care is provided at home, in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices and it can improve a person’s quality of life throughout the course of their illness.

AIIHPC Director Karen Charnley said the aim of Palliative Care Week is for people to have a better understanding of palliative care and its benefits: “This week we would like people to think about palliative care and how it could help them. We encourage people to talk about palliative care and its benefits with their GP or other health and social care professionals, and with those who are important to them. It’s clear from our findings that Covid-19 has increased the importance of discussing palliative care, and its quality of life benefits for those with life-limiting illnesses and for their family carers.”

Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist in Altnagelvin Hospital, Patricia O’Connor said: “The palliative care focus is to maintain sight of the whole person in all of this; getting to know what it is they want, where they want to be, to support the patient and their loved ones through this time, and to work with the multi-disciplinary team to make sure an effective symptom management plan is implemented. 

“Covid-19 has changed everything and it has meant a new way of working. The understandable restrictions placed on visiting has been the most difficult, particularly for patients who were at the end of their lives. However, the deep connections made with patients and those closest to them by phone during this period have enriched these experiences. Whether Palliative Care is the hand that holds yours or the voice at the other end of the phone, it’s there for you as a person – a person who is valued and matters.”

Rodney Morton, Director of Nursing and Allied Health Professionals at the Public Health Agency said: “The theme of this year’s Palliative Care week, ‘In this together’, highlights what palliative care is all about. The ethos of our regional palliative care programme – Palliative Care in Partnership – recognises the importance of collaboration between our health and social care system, voluntary organisations and local communities in working together to meet the holistic needs of people and those important to them as they approach the end of their lives. 

“The Palliative Care in Partnership programme is committed to ongoing engagement with our partners and stakeholders across care settings to ensure the delivery of safe, effective and compassionate end of life care for the population of Northern Ireland.”

Visit to find out more. #pallcareweek

Watch the AIIHPC short In This Together video here.

Infographic on Perceptions of Palliative Care


For further information or to request an interview/photos contact: 

Sarah Dunne, +353 85 853 5647 or

Robyn Keleghan, +353 87 136 8975 or

Photo caption:

(L to R) Brendan O’Hara, Programme Manager, All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC), Minister for Health, Robin Swann, and Karen Charnley, AIIHPC Director, launching Palliative Care Week 2020, with the aim of encouraging people to think about palliative care and how it can help them.

Notes to Editors:

  • *iReach survey of 500 people in Northern Ireland conducted in July 2020.
  • Karen Charnley, AIIHPC Director, is available for interview.
  • Press Eye will issue images to photo desks today for reproduction free-of-charge. 

Additional Information on the Ageing Population and 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.
  • Demands for palliative care services are expected to double by 2050.
  • The need for palliative care is increasing across the island of Ireland. The number of people dying in Northern Ireland over a 25-year period 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.Northern Ireland

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

Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services

Public Health Agency

Queen’s University Belfast

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

St. Francis Hospice

Ulster University

University College Cork

University College Dublin

University of Limerick

Western Health and Social Care Trust.