Palliative care growing faster than other hospital services

The use of palliative care services in hospitals has been rising at a faster rate than other hospitalisations, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of patients and their families facing a life-limiting illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering.

The new data, released in the web report Palliative care services in Australia, shows that the number of hospitalisations for palliative care rose from about 57,600 in 2011–12 to almost 74,000 in 2015–16—a rise of 28%. Over the same period, the total number of hospitalisations in Australia rose by 15%.

‘The hospitalisation rate  for palliative care rose across all age groups over this period,’ said AIHW spokesperson Matthew James.

‘Although it’s difficult to be definitive about the reasons for this rise, Australia’s growing and ageing population—paired with a rise in chronic and incurable illnesses—has broadened the type of patients requiring palliative care.’

In 2015–16, cancer was responsible for about half of palliative care hospital admissions and deaths among palliative care patients.

‘Overall, about 157,000 people died in Australia in 2015–16, and almost half were an admitted patient in hospital at the time of their death,’ Mr James said.

‘Of these, about half, or 50%, received palliative care services, up from 39% in 2011–12’.

The report also shows that in 2016–17, about 15,000 patients were subsidised by Medicare for their visit to a physician specialising in palliative care.

‘At the core of palliative care is the aim to provide relief from pain and other distressing symptoms, and medications can be central to this,’ Mr James said

‘MBS-subsidised palliative medicine specialist services increased by 26% between 2012–13 and 2016–17 and spending on these services increased by 31%, compared to a 19% increase in all Medicare spending for the period ’ Mr James said.

This week is National Palliative Care Week. One of the key messages is the importance of planning ahead for your end-of-life care, and discussing your preferences with your loved ones and health professionals.


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