Palliative care shows improvement

Palliative care is being provided more and more in the hospital sector, but funding is still needs to be increased, especially to expand services available where people live.

By Stephen Easton

Specialist palliative care provision in hospitals and hospices has steadily increased and the CEO of Palliative Care Australia (PCA), Dr Yvonne Luxford, is pleased as punch.

A new study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found the number of hospital admissions for specialist palliative care services increased by over 50 per cent to 52,347, over the first decade of the twenty-first century.

“It’s fantastic to see the increase,” Dr Luxford said. “However there are still very few people in hospital receiving palliative care so we need to ensure it’s available to everyone who needs it – that means increasing its availability in hospitals as well as in the community [including residential aged care].”

“[…] What’s really important is to get this robust data – we haven’t had much robust data around palliative care at all so it’s fantastic to finally get some.”

Very little data is currently available about palliative care services provided in the community, and the PCA chief executive said more was required to complete the picture. 

“There’s certainly not much data that has been collected from the community at this time,” she said.

“The majority of people would prefer to die in their own home if possible. It is not always possible and its not always appropriate but when it is appropriate, we need to make sure there are palliative care services in the community to help them.”

In the main, palliative care has historically been provided to people dying of cancer, but the report also shows that this situation is changing.

“Another great thing in the report is the length of stay for people receiving palliative care is something like four times longer than people receiving other treatment. That will demonstrate to the funders that we need to resource this better,” Dr Luxford said.

Catholic Health Australia chief executive, Martin Laverty, said today the report had backed up previous evidence demonstrating it made sense for the government to invest more in palliative care. 

“What we do know from our analysis is that about two-thirds of Australians who require palliative care are not currently receiving it. Extra funding is required for care in hospitals, residential facilities and in the home, and extra research into palliative care should be part of the case for funding,” Mr Laverty said.

“Palliative care should be provided to consumers where they want to receive it. Sometimes that will be in a hospital, sometimes it will be in a residential aged care facility, but probably it will be in a person’s own home. Services should be built around the needs of the consumer.”

Dr Andrew Broadbent, director of palliative care with HammondCare, also said palliative care was “substantially underfunded”, making a clear distinction between the specialist and generalist forms of the discipline.

“All clinicians should be able to do generalist palliative care – in hospital and out of hospital – which is more of an ethos, or an approach,” Dr Broadbent said.

“Then there are specialist services. They need to be provided in all three health domains – the acute system, sub-acute system and the community system.”

For the purposes of this article, all palliative care provided outside of acute and sub-acute hospital care is considered to be provided in the community.

Tags: funding, hospitals, palliation, palliative care, palliative-care-australia,

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