Specialist Palliative Care Inpatient units

Patients with more complex needs require specialist palliative care delivered by a specialist multidisciplinary team.

There are many people involved in providing palliative care services and teamwork is important when addressing your needs. It is important to work along with you and your family to ensure that your needs are met. It is not always easy to ask for help as people often feel they should try to cope alone. It is important, however, that you and your family/carers have as much support as possible as coping alone can be difficult.

There are two specialist palliative care units which offer services to patients who reside with the Northern Trust, the Macmillan Unit in Antrim and the Northern Ireland Hospice Unit in Belfast.

The Macmillan Unit, Antrim

The Macmillan Unit, located on the Antrim Area Hospital site, is an inpatient unit providing accommodation to care for 12 adult patients with complex specialist palliative care needs. It provides specialist palliative care to patients with life-limiting conditions such as advanced cancer, advanced respiratory disease, Motor Neurone disease, renal failure and heart failure. The focus of care is to enhance quality of life and offer a holistic approach to care through a wide range of services, including specialist clinical assessment and symptom management, rehabilitation, emotional and social support, practical help, complementary therapies and complex respite care.

It also provides inpatient services including symptom control, rehabilitation and end-of-life care.

The 12 single ensuite rooms each have access to a private outdoor space. Recognising that patients may wish their relatives to be present during their stay, the spacious single rooms are equipped to facilitate a relative wishing to stay overnight. Staff provide specialist support for family members.

Additional rooms include a day room, quiet room for reflection, a therapy room, relatives room, consulting rooms and a meeting room for training and education.

Admission to the Unit

The Unit accepts adults over 18 years of age with complex specialist palliative care symptoms and needs which require the following:

  • Assessment and management, recognising the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions.
  • Rehabilitation to maximise physical function and promote independence and adaptation to the patient’s condition.
  • End of life care for those with an estimated prognosis of not significantly more than two weeks.
  • Specialist respite care where no other facility can be found to meet that need.

Priority is given to patients and carers who live in the Northern Trust area but other patients are considered on the basis of need.

Waiting list

Patients are admitted to the Unit according to clinical priority when beds are available. Whilst awaiting admission the patient and family will be offered specialist palliative care advice and support by either the Hospital Specialist Palliative Care Team or the Northern Ireland Hospice Community Palliative Care Team, depending on the location of the patient. A home visit by a Palliative Medicine Consultant can also be arranged.

Northern Ireland Hospice Inpatient Unit

The Northern Ireland Hospice provides inpatient care for adults with a life-limiting illness. This service is provided at 74 Somerton Road Belfast, BT15 3LH.

Some patients are admitted for the relief of pain or other symptoms and will return home when the problem has been resolved. Others are admitted for respite care to give families and carers a break. Patients may also be admitted during the last few weeks of life when it may be more difficult to provide care at home.


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