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The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of patients and families who face life-threatening illness by providing pain and symptom relief, and spiritual and psychosocial support.

The demand for palliative care services across Australia is expected to increase over time due to the continued growth and ageing of the population. In addition, the pattern of disease at the end of life is changing such that an increasing proportion of people are expected to die from chronic progressive illnesses—people with such illnesses are most likely to make use of palliative care services.

The Institute undertakes a range of statistical reporting, analysis and data development projects in relation to the delivery of palliative care services across Australia. Much of this work is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Palliative Care Program.

Where is palliative care provided?

In Australia, palliative care is delivered in a range of health-care settings, including hospitals (some of which include hospices) and the community (such as a person’s home or in residential aged care facilities).

Palliative care in Australia

The Institute has produced a planned series of annual reports providing a detailed picture of the national response to the palliative care needs of Australians.

The most recent report­, entitled Palliative care services in Australia 2014­, was released by the Institute in 2014. This report provides information from a range of data sources from 2012–13 and, where indicated 2011–12. Trends over time are also highlighted in the report. Key findings from the 2014 report are outlined below:

  • there were more than 57,600 palliative care-related separations reported in public and private hospitals in 2011–12.
  • almost $4.7 million in Medicare Benefits Schedule payments was paid for palliative medicine specialist services in 2012–13.

Previous Palliative care annual reports are available on the AIHW's website:

· Palliative care services in Australia 2013

· Palliative care services in Australia 2012

Palliative care in the community

While the importance of having a comprehensive, national data collection on community-based palliative care services is well recognised, no such collection currently exists in Australia. Nonetheless, work has been undertaken by the Institute in this area previously.

In 2004, the Institute released a report entitled National palliative care information collection: a way forward for community-based palliative care. This report outlined the feasibility, and recommended scope, of a National Minimum Data Set (NMDS) for community-based palliative care. It also presented a core minimum set of data items for a future community-based palliative care NMDS.

In 2007, the Institute released a follow-up report entitled Report on the pilot test of the community-based palliative care client data collection. This report presented results and learnings from a pilot test of proposed data collection activities. A national sample of palliative care agencies had participated in the pilot test.

National palliative care performance indicators

Between 2005 and 2008, the AIHW conducted four national surveys of palliative care agencies. The information was used to determine performance against four indicators that were designed to assist in the evaluation of progress against the objectives of the first National Palliative Care Strategy. That strategy was released by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing in 2000.

Results from the surveys have been published and are available on the AIHW's website:

In 2010, the Department of Health and Ageing released a second National Palliative Care Strategy. The Institute is currently assisting the Department with the development of performance indicators for this second strategy.

Want more information?

Mental Health and Palliative Care Unit


Telephone: 02 6244 1052

Facsimile: 02 6244 1299