This paper summarises the recommendations of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Palliative Care Public Health Programmes with respect to design and implementation of palliative care national or regional public health palliative care programmes in their initial phases. We describe the elements of a programme (leadership and aims; needs and context assessment; definition of the target patients; general measures in conventional services; specialist services in different settings; sectorised networks; education and training; availability and accessibility of opioids and essential drugs; legislation; standards; budget; valuation and improvement of quality; and evaluation of results and indicators) and the specific recommendations to implement the first steps of each component. Palliative care planning needs to be systematic, inserted in all levels of the healthcare system and adapted to the cultural and organisational status of the system. Coverage for all types of patients in need, together with equity and quality, are the main aims of programmes.
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