Palliative care (PC) has focused on patients with cancer within specialist services. However, around 75% of the population in middle-income and high-income countries die of one or more chronic advanced diseases. Early identification of such patients in need of PC becomes crucial. In this feature article we describe the initial steps of the NECPAL (Necesidades Paliativas [Palliative Needs]) Programme. The focus is on development of the NECPAL tool to identify patients in need of PC; preliminary results of the NECPAL prevalence study, which assessed prevalence of advanced chronically ill patients within the population and all socio-health settings of Osona; and initial implementation of the NECPAL Programme in the region. As first measures of the Programme, we present the NECPAL tool. The main differences from the British reference tools on which NECPAL is based are highlighted. The preliminary results of the prevalence study show that 1.45% of the total population and 7.71% of the population aged over 65 are ‘surprise question’ positive, while 1.33% and 7.00%, respectively, are NECPAL positive, and surprise question positive with at least one additional positive parameter. More than 50% suffer from geriatric pluri-pathology conditions or dementia. The pilot phase of the Programme consists of developing sectorised policies to improve PC in three districts of Catalonia. The first steps to design and implement a Programme to improve PC for patients with chronic conditions with a public health and population-based approach are to identify these patients and to assess their prevalence in the healthcare system.