Palliative care needs to be part of 24/7 RN plan for aged care

With the introduction of aged care reform bills to Parliament, Palliative Care Australia (PCA) is hoping to deepen plans to have Registered Nurses (RN) 24/7 in residential aged care.

These recent parliamentary processes coincide with the delivery of PCA’s October 2022 Budget Submission to the Minister for Health and Minister for Aged Care. PCA has laid out a modest plan to have aged care nurses trained in palliative care.

“People are always surprised to learn that palliative care is not an embedded practice in aged care,” says Camilla Rowland, CEO, Palliative Care Australia (PCA).

“Currently, over one third of all deaths in Australia occur in residential aged care, and it’s a real post code lottery as to whether those people receive palliative care.

“PCA congratulates the Government on its 24/7 RNs commitment but has also highlighted the opportunity this presents to make ground on the growing need for palliative care and indeed the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission.”

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recognised the significant role palliative care can play in aged care and the need for it to be core business for aged care providers.

Recommendation 80 from the Royal Commission points to the need for compulsory palliative care training for aged care workers.

“It’s heartening to hear of the Minister’s commitment to aged care reform and see progress in this sitting of Parliament – the whole community has been inspired, and we are hoping to be a partner in this work and incorporate palliative care training early in the reform agenda,” Ms Rowland says.

PCA has detailed a three stage roll out of palliative care training to the aged care workforce, designed to complement other upskilling initiatives flagged by the Royal Commission.

“Death is an important part of life, the need we see is there every day, but looking at the longer-term picture, demand for palliative care is expected to increase by 50% between now and 2035 and double by 2050, let’s starting making ground on that need now and provide that end-of-life care we all want,” Ms Rowland says.

“Our Budget Submission also includes the need to fund and develop a National Palliative Care Workforce Strategy, so that we have the people and skills needed for the future, not just in aged care but in all care settings from community health to paediatrics to hospitals.”

The total cost of Palliative Care Australia’s October Budget Submission:

  • Palliative care training for RNs in residential aged care - $36 million over 4 years
  • National Palliative Care Workforce Strategy – $2.5 million over 2 years
  • Palliative care sector peak body funding - $400,000 per year

The full detail of can be viewed on the PCA website.

“We understand there is enormous pressure on the Commonwealth Budget, but we have shown that greater investment in palliative care services reduces costs in the wider health system through reduced hospitalisations and a better allocation of resources,” Ms Rowland says.

“We stand ready to work with the Government not just to improve and grow palliative care services but also play our role in budget repair.”

Palliative Care Australia’s October 2022 Budget Submission was delivered in July 2022, and should be considered alongside PCAs 2022-23 Pre-Budget Submission delivered in early 2022 prior to the 2022 Federal Election.