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More funding and greater awareness needed for palliative care

Introduction by Croakey:  Rural doctors and the national peak body for palliative care have reinforced the need for families to have difficult and emotional conversations about end-of-life care to ensure patients can die with dignity.

In National Palliative Care Week, the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) has called for more rural generalist doctors with palliative care qualifications to meet the needs of patients who “overwhelmingly prefer to palliate at home or as close to it as they can get”.

RDAA president Dr John Hall said 70 per cent of rural patients would prefer to die at home but less than 10 per cent actually did.

“We need to ensure that we have adequate doctors in the bush to facilitate in-community care for these patients, to enable them to remain around their family and friends during this time,” Hall said.

Despite $37.3 million in additional funding in the recent 2021-22 Federal Budget for at-home palliative care, Hall said further investment was desperately needed, as well as improved Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) funding for GPs and nurses who provide home-based palliative care.

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) today launched a new multimedia campaign to debunk myths around palliative care and provide clear and simple information about how high quality healthcare and support can help people with life-limiting illnesses live as well as possible, for as long as possible.

In the article below, PCA chair Professor Meera Agar explains why more support and awareness is needed.


Meera Agar writes:

Palliative care is about maintaining quality of life. Every year around 40,000 of the 163,000 Australians who die have received palliative care.

New research by Palliative Care Australia (PCA) shows that an additional 40,000 people – on conservative estimates – could receive palliative care if they better understood what it was and knew how to access care.

Why is this important? All the evidence shows that the sooner someone with a life-limiting illness receives palliative care, the greater the chance they will live as well as possible for as long as possible.

Palliative care is for anyone of any age – from babies to older adults – who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, and it can be provided alongside curative treatments, or when those treatments have ended.

There are barriers that prevent quality palliative care being available for all who need it and increased government investment is required to ensure we meet the growing demand for palliative care.

In Australia, there is also strong evidence of limited community understanding about the benefits of palliative care and how to access it, and this presents as a barrier to timely care.

To address this, PCA, with the support of the Australian Government, has developed an education campaign that attempts to engage the community in a conversation about the benefits of palliative care.

Australian’s awareness and support for palliative, generally speaking, is encouragingly high.

But new PCA survey data released today, found that while Australians are in favour of palliative care, they have a limited understanding around its broader meaning and a general reluctance to engage in conversations on death and dying.

Fewer than four out of 10 Australians surveyed (39 per cent) correctly understood that palliative care can be requested when a person is first diagnosed with a terminal, chronic or degenerative illness. And only three out of 10 Australians correctly understand that general practitioners are among those who can provide palliative care.

Almost 90 per cent of those surveyed last month agree that people should plan for end of life. But far fewer Australians – half of all respondents – have done anything about it. Most find the subject of death and planning for the end of life too difficult to talk about.

Screenshot from the Palliative Care: More than you think campaign advertisement

The ‘Palliative Care: It’s more than you think’ campaign launched today aims to challenge perceptions that palliative care is a ‘last resort’.

At its heart is a clear and simple message to inform, empower and encourage Australians living with a life-limiting illness to engage with their healthcare professionals early in their diagnosis.

Adopting a light-hearted, ‘vintage’ style of animation, the campaign explains what palliative care is, who it is for, who can provide it, and where it can be provided, together with answers to frequently asked questions.

We hope it reinforces the message that all palliative care is about quality of life and helping people with a life-limiting illness live their lives as well as possible for as long as possible.

Professor Meera Agar is chair of Palliative Care Australia.


See Croakey’s archive of stories about palliative care.

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