Palliative care aims to prevent and relieve suffering and improve the quality of life of people (adults, children and their families) facing problems associated with life-limiting illness. Palliative care can be delivered in almost all settings where health care is provided, by a wide range of health and community providers, is not limited to any specific condition, can be delivered at any stage of illness, and can accompany curative treatments.
Palliative care is delivered in almost all settings where health care is provided, including neonatal units, paediatric services, acute hospitals, general practices, community settings (such as people's own homes) and residential aged care services. Specialist services operate from a variety of settings, including inpatient, hospice and community-based services.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes palliative care as an approach that 'improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual. Palliative care:
- provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
- affirms life and regards dying as a normal process
- intends neither to hasten or postpone death
- integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care
- offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death
- offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient's illness and in their own bereavement
- uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated
- will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness
- is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications (WHO 2017).
The Australian Insitute of Health and Welfare's (AIHW) Palliative care services in Australia report provides centralised and accessible information on a range of palliative care services. More data relating to palliative care services can also be found under Aged care, Older people and Hospitals. The AIHW is also working with palliative care stakeholders to help address data gaps in palliative care reporting. The AIHW in collaboration with the End-of-Life Care Data Development Working Group released the National Palliative Care and End-of-Life Care Information Priorities report (PDF 890KB) in January 2022. This document outlines an aspirational vision for the future of national palliative care and end-of-life care information development over the next decade and articulates priorities aimed at supporting that vision. National information will support people with life-limiting illness, their families and carers, health professionals, health services, policy makers, and governments to make informed decisions based on timely and comprehensive information.
WHO (World Health Organization) (2020) WHO palliative care, WHO, accessed 6 October 2023.
14,500 people received 69,100 palliative medicine attendance and case conference services in 2021–22
There was a 29% increase in palliative care-related hospitalisations between 2015–16 and 2021–22
1.3 million palliative care-related prescriptions were provided to 453,300 people in 2021–22
4,800 people using permanent residential aged care had an ACFI appraisal indicating need for palliative care in 2021–22