Key definitions

Palliative care

Palliative care is for people living with a terminal illness where a cure is no longer possible. It’s not just for people diagnosed with terminal cancer, but any terminal condition. It’s also for people who have a complex illness and need their symptoms controlled. Although these people usually have an advanced, progressive condition, this isn’t always the case.

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life for patients and their families. It aims to treat or manage pain and other physical symptoms. It will also help with any psychological, social or spiritual needs. Treatment will involve medicines, therapies, and any other support that specialist teams believe will help their patients. It includes caring for people who are nearing the end of life. This is called end of life care.

Specialist palliative care

Specialist palliative care is the active, total care of patients with progressive, advanced disease and their families. Care is provided by a multi-professional team who have undergone recognised Specialist Palliative Care training. The aim of the care is to provide physical, psychological, social and spiritual support.

The focus of care is on quality of life, required by people with progressing life limiting illness and those who have unresolved complex end of life needs that cannot be met by their current care team. These needs may be physical, psychological, social and/or spiritual.

End of life care

End of life care is given to people with an advanced progressive, incurable illness. It helps them to live as well as possible until they die. It focuses on preparing for an anticipated death and managing the end stage of a terminal medical condition – this includes care during and around the time of death, and immediately afterwards.

End of life care enables the supportive and palliative care needs of both the person and their family to be identified and met throughout the last phase of life and into bereavement. It includes management of pain and other symptoms and provision of psychological, social, spiritual and practical support and support for the family into bereavement.