Press Release

Minister Harris opens First National Palliative Care Seminar in Farmleigh

Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, today opened the First National Palliative Care Seminar in Farmleigh, Dublin. The Seminar was focused on the implementation of two published National Clinical Guidelines, The Pharmacological Management of Cancer Pain in Adults and Management of Constipation in Adult Patients Receiving Palliative Care which were approved by the National Clinical Effectiveness Committee (NCEC) and endorsed by the Minister for implementation in the health services. Over the course of the day, presenters and attendees considered the practical implementation of the guidelines into evidence based and patient centred care for the patients they manage and treat each day in the health service.

Speaking at the Seminar the Minister said “Palliative care is about quality of life. It is about helping people living with illness to be as well as possible and do the things they want to do. There are many aspects to this, but perhaps the most important is identifying, managing and working closely with patients to ensure good control of their symptoms so that restrictions on their living activities are minimised. Although there are others, two common symptoms are pain and constipation”.

The burden of cancer pain and constipation in Ireland is currently unknown. However, international studies suggest that between 50-90% of cancer patients experience pain at some stage and constipation is the third most frequently encountered symptom in palliative care patients. A Point Prevalence Study on Cancer Pain and Constipation in Ireland was commissioned by the Department of Health earlier this year and once published the results will give a real insight into the prevalence of these symptoms and how we can measure progress.

Professor Karen Ryan said that ‘the purpose of this seminar is to promote the uptake of the two NCEC palliative care guidelines into routine clinical practice. We know that, unfortunately, people with serious illnesses experience reduced quality of life when they experience symptoms such as pain. We also know that as healthcare professionals there is much that we can do to relieve distress and improve wellbeing. Today, clinicians, managers and patients are coming together in order to share their knowledge and experiences in implementing guidelines. In this way, we will learn from each other and continue our efforts to ensure that patients experience the best possible care from our health services.’

Addressing the attendees who included multi-disciplinary health professionals and patients, the Minister said “Clinical Guidelines are important as they are evidence based and increase patient safety by reducing the variation in care that is provided. This is especially important in palliative care, which is delivered across multiple types of settings and by a range of health professionals, not all of whom are specialists in palliative care itself. These two guidelines are also key enablers for the implementation of the recommendations on palliative care contained in the new National Cancer Care Strategy which I launched last July. I am particularly pleased to note the level of public involvement in guideline development and audit governance. Guidelines are not just for healthcare professionals, they are for all audiences including patients and their families.”

The Minister acknowledged the work of the Guideline Development Groups, the support of the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care, the NCEC and the HSE National Clinical Programme for Palliative Care. He also praised the healthcare professionals who work with patients and families on a daily basis to help them through what can be a very difficult time.


Notes to the Editor

What is the NCEC?
The NCEC is the National Clinical Effectiveness Committee. It was set up as part of the Patient Safety First Initiative in September 2010. The NCEC is supported by the Clinical Effectiveness Unit, which is part of the National Patient Safety Office in the Department of Health.

What does the NCEC do?
The NCEC’s mission is to provide a framework for national endorsement of clinical guidelines and audit to optimise patient and service user care. The NCEC has developed and provided a mechanism for the prioritisation and quality assurance of clinical guidelines and clinical audit so as to recommend them to the Minister for Health to become part of a suite of National Clinical Guidelines and National Clinical Audit.

Who is on the NCEC?
The NCEC is a partnership between key stakeholders in patient safety. The NCEC is chaired by Professor Karen Ryan and includes clinicians, patient representatives, the Department of Health, patient safety experts, health managers, regulatory bodies, training and education bodies, insurance and clinical indemnity agencies and private healthcare. National Clinical Effectiveness Committee (NCEC)

What are National Clinical Guidelines?
National Clinical Guidelines are “systematically developed statements, based on a thorough evaluation of the evidence, to assist practitioner and service users’ decisions about appropriate healthcare for specific clinical circumstances across the entire clinical system”.

What difference will National Clinical Guidelines make to patients?
The implementation of good quality clinical guidelines can improve patients’ health outcomes, reduce variation in practice and improve the quality of clinical decisions. The National Clinical Guidelines provide a mechanism to improve further the quality, safety and cost effectiveness of healthcare in Ireland. Implementation of National Clinical Guidelines will help to improve patient’s health outcomes and will inform patients about the care they should receive and empower them to make more informed healthcare choices.

Why is it important to have Cancer Pain and Constipation National Clinical Guidelines?
The guidelines provide recommendations for the general and specific measures required to treat patients suffering from cancer-related pain and constipation. They also consider the resources for delivering this care and describe how the recommendations should be incorporated into quality measures and clinical audit to safeguard the quality of patient care.

Further information about the NCEC and National Clinical Guidelines is available at

Further information about the National Cancer Strategy 2017-2016 is available at: