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National guidelines needed for palliative care referrals

Professor David Currow.

Leading academic Professor David Currow has called for national guidelines on referral to specialist palliative care services at the 13th Australian Palliative Care conference in Melbourne.

His suggestion, which was met with applause from delegates, is consistent with Palliative Care Australia recommendations to the Federal Government as part of the Primary Health Care Review.

Professor Currow, Discipline, Palliative and Supportive Services, Flinders University told ehospice that the palliative care sector needed to take more responsibility for overcoming referral problems.

“Consistently, we criticise people for referring at the wrong time or referring the wrong patient population or referring for the wrong reasons.

“At the end of the day palliative care services have to take some ownership of helping our colleagues through that so there is absolute clarity about how, when and why to engage us.

“Palliative care services need to be more active about getting out there and identifying people with the most complex needs and start seeking them out.”

He gave the example of asking a respiratory team how many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder had been admitted to hospital more than three times in the past six months, or asking a cardiology team how many people on their books had New York Heart Association Grade Four.

“Then you can ask, how can we help you better manage them?” Professor Currow said.

“It does happen now in some places. There are pockets of this occurring right across the country, where different relationships have been built, often on an ad hoc basis.

“We now need to systemise access for people where ever they are, if they have a life limiting illness and complex needs.

“It’s about structuring our services to ensure our clinical colleagues and the community have really clear and consistent guidelines on how best to engage us.”

“At the end of the day palliative care services have to take some ownership of helping our colleagues through that so there is absolute clarity about how, when and why to engage us.”

He said developing guidelines required a whole of system approach with wide consensus and strong buy in from colleges of general practice and nursing, and allied health groups.

Professor Currow said Palliative Care Australia was ideally placed to achieve national guidelines, in collaboration with Palliative Care Nurses Australia and the Australian New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine.

“Palliative Care Association has taken the lead in the past, developing national guidelines for service planning, despite many people saying those guidelines would never occur.”

Professor Currow recently won the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care 2015 Award for Excellence in Scientific Research in Palliative Care.


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