Cancer patients make up bulk of hospital palliative care

More than two-thirds of palliative care admissions to Australian hospitals in 1999-00 were for patients with cancer, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Admitted Patient Palliative Care in Australia 1999-00 is the AIHW's first national report on hospital palliative care-funded under the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing's National Palliative Care Program.

It shows that there were an estimated 21,341 palliative care admissions to public and private hospitals in 1999-00.

The majority of palliative care patients in Australia live in the city (75% in 1999-00), are Australian-born (70%), and have been diagnosed with cancer (69%).

Almost 80% of palliative care admissions were to public hospitals. The average length of stay for these patients was about 12 days (compared to just under 4 days for other patients).

'Caring for the dying has always been regarded as one of the basics of providing good medical care, but it's only in recent decades that care for people with terminal illnesses has become a specialised area of medical and nursing practice,' report co-author Ms Van Doeland said.

'Our figures are on palliative care provided in hospitals, but of course we know that a great deal of palliative care is provided outside hospitals-particularly in people's own homes. Nationally consistent data on palliative care outside of hospitals are not collected at the moment, but will be in the future.'

Other findings in the report include:

  • More than half of palliative care admissions were for patients aged 60-79 years, and about 22% were for patients aged 80 years or more.
  • Men accounted for 55% of palliative care admissions to hospital.
  • Procedures were reported for 60% of palliative care patients. These included allied health interventions, of which the most common were social work (5,248 admissions); physiotherapy (4,938); occupational therapy (2,628); and dietetics (2,010).

18 July 2003


Further information: Mieke Van Doeland, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1083
Media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032