Aged and palliative care together

An updated National Palliative Care Strategy has just been released by the federal government. It outlines a framework for service delivery across all sectors including, aged care.

By Yasmin Noone

The federal government has just released its updated palliative care strategy, outlining its preferred framework for service delivery across all sectors, including aged care.

The National Palliative Care Strategy 2010 provides a nationally consistent and coordinated approach to the delivery of palliative care services across Australia, throughout the primary, acute and aged care sector.

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, said that the strategy, endorsed by all Australian health ministers, was updated to ensure that it accurately reflects current policies and practices.

“…It will help us to meet the challenges of integrating palliative and end-of-life care across the health system,” Mr Butler said.

“This is something that affects large numbers of Australians – each year, more than 20,000 people receive specialist palliative care and more than 500,000 patients, carers, family members or friends are affected.

“It is important people receive the best palliative care available, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.”

The strategy document, Supporting Australians to Live Well at the End of Life, recognises the need to improve the skills of palliative care workers in all specialist and general settings, including general practices, residential and community aged care services, and generalist community services.

It was developed following extensive consultation and research. Eight workshops were held across Australia in March 2010 and an extensive on-line survey was undertaken by 320 people.

The document states that the strategy aims to “significantly improve the appreciation of dying and death as a normal part of the life continuum and to enhance community and professional awareness of the scope of, and benefits of timely and appropriate access to, palliative care services.

It will also assist in coordination between the Australian Government’s National Palliative Care Program (NPCP) and the states and territories, which provide most palliative care services in the community.

“This update occurred at a time of major health care reform in Australia,” the document stated. “While these reforms continue to be developed to address the needs of a changing and ageing population, it is clear that the demand for high quality palliative care across Australia will inevitably increase.

“To meet this demand all parts of the health and human services sector will need to focus on the following four goal areas: awareness and understanding; appropriateness and effectiveness; leadership and governance; and capacity.”

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) welcomed the government’s ongoing commitment to improving both access to, and the quality of, palliative care across the country via this updated strategy.

“PCA believes that all Australians should be able to expect to die with their preventable pain and other symptoms well managed, with the people they wish to be present and, whenever possible, in the place of their choice,” said Dr Scott Blackwell, president of PCA.

“We are very pleased to see this sentiment reflected in the revised strategy.

“We certainly agree that discussions around death and dying need to be more commonplace and frequent in the community. As Australians become more comfortable in talking about dying, it is likely that they will also develop advance care plans and talk to their health professionals about end of life care.

“The recognition of the need for improvement of skills in palliative care across the generalist health workforce is a key issue in the strategy. We definitely still require more specialist palliative care professionals, but the needs of Australians will not be met until knowledge and skills in end of life care are common across health care providers.

“Overall, we are very pleased with the general direction of the strategy. However, it is currently lacking timeframes. We need it to tell us when actions will be delivered, not just what.”

Tags: aged-care, mark-butler, national-palliative-care-strategy-2010, palliative care,

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