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The number of palliative care hospital admissions in Australia rose by more than 50% between 2001 and 2010, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Palliative care services in Australia, shows that there were almost 56,000 palliative care admissions reported in public and private hospitals in 2009-10.

The average age of people being admitted to palliative care was 71.9 years.

 'Palliative care is care in which the goal is primarily quality of life for a patient with an active, progressive disease with little or no prospect of cure. It aims to maintain quality of life for the patient, their family and carers,' said AIHW spokesperson Brent Diverty.

More males than females were admitted to palliative care (54% to 46%).  

The rate of admission as a proportion of the population, taking age into account, was also higher for males than females (28.0 and 19.4 per 10,000 people, respectively).

'Although there were more palliative care admissions for males overall, in the 25-54 age group there were more admissions for women', Mr Diverty said.

'And for people aged 85 years and over, there were 20% more admissions for women compared to men.'

People aged 75 years and over accounted for about half of all palliative care admissions. The proportion of palliative care admissions increases with age, with only about 1 in 10 of the total number being for patients under 55 years.

Most palliative care admissions in Australia were to public hospitals (85%), particularly in New South Wales (92%) and Victoria (89%). In Western Australia, however, most palliative care admissions were to private hospitals (61%). Among all general practice encounters in 2010-11 about 1 in 1,000 were palliative care-related.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 19 October 2012

Further information: Mr Brent Diverty, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5096, mob.  0407 915 851

Full report: Palliative care services in Australia 2012