The World Health Organization offers the following definition of palliative care:
Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering, by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, be these physical, psychosocial or spiritual. Palliative care:
provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of care;
offers a support system to help people live as actively as possible until death;
offers a support system to help the family cope during the illness and in their own bereavement;
will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.
Depending upon a person's needs, different levels of palliative care may be provided by a number of different people and services:
General Palliative Care
General palliative care is an integral part of the routine care delivered by all health and social care professionals to those living with a progressive and incurable disease, whether at home, in a care home, or in hospital. It is delivered by General Practitioners (GPs), Community Nurses, Home Care Support Staff, Hospital Doctors and Nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, families, neighbours, and a host of others. Anyone who cares for someone who is dying can deliver palliative care.
Specialist Palliative Care
Specialist palliative care can help people with more complex needs. It is provided by specially trained multi-professional teams (including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, dentists, chaplains and others) and can be accessed in any care setting.