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“Urgent action” needed on palliative care

This weekend Australian advocates will join with thousands of their fellow campaigners in over 70 countries at more than 1,000 events to publicise and promote the cause of hospice and palliative care.

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) and the World Palliative Care Allaince (WPCA) are using Saturday’s World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2013 to focus on “dispelling the myths” that are preventing quicker progress being made in achieving universal coverage of services. 

David Praill, Chair of the WPCA and Chief Executive of Help the Hospices UK, said that 42 per cent of countries do not have any identified hospice and palliative care services and 80 per cent of people globally lack adequate access to medication for treatment of moderate to severe pain.

“This means that millions of people, especially in the developing world, are living and dying in unnecessary pain and distress,” Praill said.

Australian “lottery” 

PCA President, Professor Patsy Yates

Even in Australia, which was ranked second in the Quality of Death Index in 2010, access to palliative care is essentially a lottery, determined by where you live, your diagnosis, age, cultural background, and education of your health professional, according to PCA.

Professor Patsy Yates, PCA President, said that at best estimates only 30 to 50 per cent of people who would benefit from access to palliative care services receive them. “Each year this leaves tens of thousands of Australians and their families without adequate support at the end of life, which is unacceptable.”

Global day of action

On Saturday, advocates, patients and carers will come together to call for urgent action from UN agencies, governments, the private sector, and civil society to improve access to palliative care for people with life-limiting conditions by integrating palliative care into existing services.

According to PCA, in addition to better integration of hospice and palliative care into healthcare, the global hospice and palliative care community is stressing the need for:

  • More training for health professionals and carers;
  • Improved access to pain and symptom management medications;
  • The inclusion of hospice and palliative care into existing health policies; 
  • Opportunities for older people to be involved in decisions about their care.

A key part of the campaign is dispelling these commonly held myths which PCA said is holding back advances in palliative care and hospice. PCA has published a number of articles to dispel some of these myths. You can read them here



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