Call for national discussion on dying

Palliative Care Australia has urged the Australian Government to fund a comprehensive public awareness campaign on end-of-life care and advance care planning to help spark a national conversation.

Palliative Care Australia has urged the Australian Government to fund a comprehensive public awareness campaign on end-of-life care and advance care planning to help spark a national conversation.

Dr Yvonne Luxford, CEO of Palliative Care Australia, said while talking about death could be difficult, there was growing public demand for dialogue on this issue.

“Our research shows us that 70 per cent of Australians think we don’t talk about death and dying enough and more than 50 per cent of people who had recently lost a loved one had not discussed end-of-life care with them, nor were they confident their loved one’s end-of-life wishes were carried out,” said Dr Luxford.

She said changing community sentiment was also supported by international developments, with palliative care gaining greater prominence in global politics. On 23 January, the executive board of the World Health Assembly unanimously passed a resolution, co-sponsored by Australia, to recognise palliative care as integral to health systems worldwide.

“Palliative care is a basic human right and should be available to all our people, when and where they need it,” said Dr Luxford.

In its 2014-2015 budget submission, PCA outlined a 10-point action plan to make palliative care “core business” in Australia’s health and aged care policy, including fixing shortcomings in the education and training of health professionals and improving access to end-of-life care.

Dr Luxford said for most Australians, accessing adequate services was “nothing short of a lottery”, determined by geography, diagnosis, cultural background and age.

Among its recommendations, the action plan calls for government to:

  • develop a Palliative Care Workforce Strategy, which embeds palliative care into the education and training of all health professionals across their careers;
  • fund Medicare Locals to assess access and assist in planning palliative care services to meet local needs;
  • expand the National Disability Insurance Scheme to include palliative care;
  • fund a national 1800 telephone and information service to provide palliative care advice and support for patients, families and carers;
  • fund in-home respite care for people receiving palliative care at home.

Cost impacts

To assess the significant cost savings of palliative care models to the community, PCA also called for a Productivity Commission inquiry to undertake local economic analysis of savings achieved through reductions in hospital admissions, emergency department visits and intensive care unit costs.

“Whilst extensive international evidence indicates that palliative care is economically beneficial to health systems, we need Australian evidence,” said Dr Luxford.

“PCA calls on the Australian government to request the Productivity Commission to build upon the work they have already undertaken in the Caring for Older Australians study, and conduct a clear economic analysis of the financial benefits of palliative care in the Australian context.”

Dr Luxford also urged the government to renew funding for existing National Palliative Care Programs, including the Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach (PEPA) training  and the Palliative Care Knowledge Network, which are subject to renegotiation from July this year.

Tags: budget 2014, end of life, palliative care, palliative-care-australia,

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