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Palliative Care FAQs

Is palliative care just for people with cancer?

No, palliative care is for anyone affected by a life limiting illness.

How can I be referred to a hospice or palliative care service?

Your own GP or a hospital doctor will normally arrange for you or a family member to be referred to a hospice or palliative care service. Do talk to your doctor or any of the staff caring for you if you have worries or concerns or want to discuss the option of a referral. 

What palliative care will I receive in hospital?

The hospital palliative care team is an advisory service and provides specialist assessment and advice on the management of a range of issues that may face patients and their relatives and carers. This may include:

  • physical symptoms such as pain or vomiting
  • talking through treatment choices
  • coming to terms with difficult news
  • help with talking to other family members
  • planning for place of care and facilitating patient choice
  • referring on to hospice or community palliative care services in Sheffield and beyond

If you would like to meet the Hospital Palliative Care Team during your stay in hospital, ask the ward team to refer you.

How can I make my wishes for care known?

The Preferred Priorities for Care document provides a place for you to record your wishes about future care. Within this document you can include your wishes regarding where you might wish to be cared for in the future, or specify treatments that you would rather not have. This will help your family & doctors to know your wishes in the event that you become too ill to tell them.

What are the criteria for getting referred to St Luke’s Hospice?

You need to have been diagnosed with a serious and progressive illness for which there is no known cure. Also, your illness must be well-advanced and not in its early stages.

St Luke’s can’t cure you but it can help you to live as normally as possible for as long as possible by providing specialist medical and nursing care, advice and support when, and how, you need it. Many patients live for a significant time following their referral.

Once referred, there are three ways you can access the hospice’s services. Initially, it would offer you the one which best suits your needs at that moment, but the hospice’s flexible approach enables you to switch between them, should your needs change.

The hospice’s Therapies and Rehabilitation Centre provides day-patient access to complementary and conventional therapies and other professional services which can establish and maintain physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being.
The hospice’s Community Specialist Palliative Care Team supports and advises those people living at home. They work closely with GPs and district nurses.

The hospice’s Patient Centre is for people who are extremely ill or those with particularly troublesome or distressing symptoms who, for a time, need 24-hour monitoring and intensive specialist palliative care. 

Can my family or I make a direct referral to the hospice for care? My GP/hospital doctor hasn’t mentioned being referred despite the fact that I’ve been told I’m terminally ill?

It’s very important you discuss these issues with your doctor or nurse, as they may have some good reason for not referring at the moment. The referral form for the hospice can be downloaded here and can be passed to your doctor if they don’t have one. 

When I was referred to the hospice I thought it meant I would have to go and live there until I died. I know friends and relatives who have gone into St Luke’s and never came out.

Hospices often have to deal with this misconception. In fact, of the 500 patients known to St Luke’s at any one time, over 90% stay in their own homes under the care of the hospice’s Community Specialist Palliative Care Team or attend the Therapies and Rehabilitation Centre to access the hospice’s wealth of professional support services as a day-patient.

Patients go into the Hospice’s 20-bed inpatient unit for a variety of reasons. Undoubtedly, some are at the end of their lives, but others are admitted so that the hospice’s team can manage particular symptoms such as pain, nausea or breathlessness. Once such problems are solved, most patients return home. In fact, around 35% of all inpatients are discharged home at the end of their stay. 

I thought the hospice only cared for people with cancer?

Many hospices used to just care for cancer patients but in the last 15 years practically all hospices cater for people who have diseases other than cancer. In fact the diagnosis is not a barrier at all to the services offered and whether you have cancer, lung disease, heart disease, neurological disease or you have reached the end of your life due to old age or frailty we can offer you the support you need. However, the hospice does not provide long term care. 

I’ve been told that there aren’t any Macmillan Nurse at St Luke's - I thought all hospices had Macmillan Nurses?

St Luke’s does not employ Macmillan Nurses although they do employ nurses who do the same job but are called Community Specialist Palliative Care Nurses. Macmillan have an excellent system of funding the first three years of many posts, particularly specialist nursing posts in hospitals and hospices. This is often referred to as ‘pump priming’. However after the first three years the funding is taken over by the employing organisation such as the hospital or the hospice. Many relatives in the past have sent donations to the hospice for the ‘Macmillan Nurses’ and the hospice is then obliged to either forward this funding to Macmillan or write back to the donor explaining that the nurses are funded by the hospice. 

Is it true that St Luke’s Hospice only takes patients from the South of Sheffield?

The hospice takes patients from anywhere in the city depending on patient choice and convenience. There is an NHS unit in the North of the city in the grounds of the Northern General Hospital called the Sheffield Macmillan Unit which admits patients following exactly the same criteria as St Luke’s. It has 18 beds and if either unit is full, patients can choose to be admitted to the other if they require inpatient care. 

If I have no religious background can I still use St Luke’s Hospice’s services?

There is no bias towards any part of society and the hospice accepts people irrespective of religion (or no religion), sexual orientation, culture, class or any other reason. The hospice provides support to anyone who needs it at the time they need it as long as they meet the referral criteria.


NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group

722 Prince of Wales Road
S9 4EU

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