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The number of palliative care-related hospital admissions rose by 52% between 2002-03 and 2011-12, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

There were a total of 57,614 palliative care related hospitalisations to public and private hospitals during the 2011-12 financial year, representing 0.6% of all hospitalisations.

The third report in this series, Palliative Care Services in Australia 2014, provides a detailed picture of the national response to the palliative care needs of Australians.

It shows that over the 5 years to 2012-13, the amount in benefits paid for all palliative medicine specialist services that were subsidised through the Medicare Benefits Schedule rose by an average of 20.4% each year.

In 2013, there were 106 specialist palliative care services that reported to the Commonwealth-funded Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration which aims to benchmark and measure patient outcomes in palliative care. Of these, about two thirds of all contributing providers met their specified benchmark, where 90% of new patients commenced care within a day of being ready for care.

'When a patient is in need of palliative care, it's important that these care needs are met as quickly as possible,' said AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard.

'As in previous years, patients aged 75 years and over accounted for almost half (49.1%) of palliative care hospitalisations for the 2011-12 financial year.

'And over half (58%) of the total number of palliative care patients (about 17,200 patients) who died during this period had a diagnosis of cancer.'

The report also shows that of the 226,000 permanent residential aged care residents who had completed Aged Care Funding Instrument assessments in 2012-13, 1 in 18 were assessed as needing palliative care.

Nearly 5 in 1,000 employed medical specialists in Australia are palliative medicine physicians. Over half of employed specialist palliative medicine physicians were female, a contrast to other clinician specialists where only 26.8% are female.

In 2012-13, more than 19,500 patients had a palliative care related prescription subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The most frequently prescribed medications were laxatives, analgesics and anti-epileptics.

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, 24 September 2014

Further information: Mr Tim Beard, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1270, mob 0418 271 395

Full publication: Palliative Care Services in Australia 2014