New palliative care data highlights pressure on hospitals 

Palliative Care Australia welcomes the release of new data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 

“This AIHW data gives us a snapshot of how palliative care is delivered in hospitals and specialist palliative care units. The data is an important piece of the puzzle as government seeks to make reforms in primary care and aged care, which PCA hopes will improve access to palliative care,” says Camilla Rowland, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Palliative Care Australia (PCA). 

Among some of the findings of the Palliative care services in Australia report, is that hospitalisations continue to increase. 

“In fact, the number of palliative care-related hospitalisations is increasing at a faster rate than for all hospitalisations – a 23% increase compared with a 12% overall increase over the five years up to 2020-21.” Ms Rowland says.  

“Increasing hospitalisations have a huge impact on the workings of our health system and perhaps means that people aren’t getting the choice they deserve at the end of their life.” 

As the AIHW points out, the ageing of Australia’s population is a major contributor to this growth.  In the wake of the Aged Care Royal Commission two years ago, one of the other markers the sector is watching is data that points to better access to palliative care within residential aged care.  

“Commissioners made 12 recommendations that specifically pointed to the need for palliative care to be better understood and embedded within aged care,” Ms Rowland says. 

“There is a great deal of positive and much-anticipated reform in aged care, but because the changes are so recent, we are waiting for data showing what we hope is increasing access to palliative care for aged care residents.”  

The 2023-2024 Australian Budget made significant investments in strengthening primary health and aged care; the results of that will hopefully become evident in future data releases from AIHW.   

“For most people with a life limiting illness, whether they are living at home or in an aged care facility - local GP’s, nurses, and allied health professionals can deliver the palliative care needed - outside of the hospital and specialist palliative care system, but many don’t have the training to do so,” Ms Rowland says.  

“We are partners in the health and aged care reforms that all Australians are calling for and we look forward to using this AIHW data and working with the government on their important agenda.”   

The full report from AIHW can be viewed HERE.