Purpose of review: Patients with heart failure seem particularly suited to palliative care having needs that fall within the prototypical palliative care domains. Despite this there is still much debate as to who should respond to these needs and when.
Recent findings: Since the early 1990s many studies have been published outlining the unmet needs of patients with heart failure. However, there have been limitations to these studies and they have not guided professionals as to how to respond. More recently comparative studies using cancer as the reference have explored similarities and highlighted differences in need between heart failure and cancer patients. These studies are useful for informing future service development.
Summary: Patients with heart failure have variable needs and variable disease trajectories. A targeted response to these needs is required. Palliative triggers or transitions should be recognized by professionals caring for patients with heart failure. It is unlikely that either specialist palliative care or medical specialists working in isolation will be sufficiently experienced to respond to these needs. Research is required to determine the effectiveness of different collaborative approaches; heart failure specialist care aligned with palliative care consultancy or heart failure-oriented palliative care services.