The need for palliative care in Ireland: a population-based estimate of palliative care using routine mortality data, inclusive of nonmalignant conditions

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2015 Apr;49(4):726-733.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2014.09.011. Epub 2014 Nov 8.


Context: Over the history of palliative care provision in Ireland, services have predominantly provided care to those with cancer. Previous estimates of palliative care need focused primarily on specialist palliative care and included only a limited number of nonmalignant diseases.

Objectives: The primary aim of this study was to estimate the potential population with generalist and/or specialist palliative care needs in Ireland using routine mortality data inclusive of nonmalignant conditions. The secondary aim was to consider the quality of Irish data available for this population-based estimate.

Methods: Irish routine mortality data (2007-2011) were analyzed for malignant and nonmalignant conditions recognized as potentially requiring palliative care input, using specific International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems-10th Revision codes. The method developed by Murtagh et al. was used to give a population-based palliative care needs estimate, encompassing generalist and specialist palliative care need.

Results: During the period 2007-2011, there were 141,807 deaths. Eighty percent were from conditions recognized as having associated palliative care needs, with 41,253 (30%) deaths from cancer and 71,226 (50%) deaths from noncancer conditions. The majority of deaths, 81% (91,914), were among those ≥65 years. There was a 13.9% (901) increase in deaths of those ≥85 years. Deaths from dementia increased by 51.3%, with an increase in deaths from neurodegenerative disease (42.8%) and cancer (9.5%).

Conclusion: Future palliative care policy decisions in Ireland must consider the rapidly aging Irish population with the accompanying increase in deaths from cancer, dementia, and neurodegenerative disease and associated palliative care need. New models of palliative care may be required to address this.

Keywords: Ireland; Palliative care; chronic illness; end-of-life care; needs assessment; public health; terminal care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / mortality
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data*