Paramedics are key to improving access to palliative care

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Paramedics are key to improving access to palliative care

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) and the Australasian College of Paramedicine (ACP) have joined forces to improve access to and delivery of high-quality palliative care throughout Australia.

Paramedics are uniquely placed to provide frontline 24/7 care for people nearing the end of life, yet the profession is repeatedly overlooked in healthcare funding, workforce planning and palliative care related policy.

PCA and the ACP are calling on decision makers to:

  • Provide paramedics with access to electronic medical records to view patients’ advance care planning and palliative care details in real time.
  • Allow ambulance services to deliver specific medications for common end-of-life symptoms, reducing unnecessary hospital transfers.
  • Incorporate and connect paramedics with local palliative care referral pathways, beyond an emergency department.

“Paramedics want to be able to better support palliative care patients but currently face a number of barriers in doing that, resulting in unnecessary emergency department presentations and potential ambulance ramping. These barriers restrict paramedics from meeting the fundamental health care needs of these patients.” says ACP Chief Executive Officer, John Bruning.

The most recent data from the Australian Institute of Health Welfare shows that nearly 70% of potential preventable hospitalisations are for people with life-limiting and chronic conditions.

“Increasing access to community based, in-home palliative care needs to be the next chapter of health and aged care reform - and changes to how paramedics work is part of that,” says PCA Chief Executive Officer, Camilla Rowland.

“The recommendations we are putting forward do not come with any significant cost to the health system, but rather save valuable public health dollars through fewer hospital transfers and care and better allocation of resources.”

PCA and the ACP have made these recommendations in a jointly endorsed submission to the Commonwealth’s ‘Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce – Scope of Practice Review’, which comes with a new framework to better support paramedics in the delivery of palliative care.

“The Scope of Practice Review is a major opportunity to reshape the way care is delivered to people with life-limiting illnesses by those in various clinical and allied health roles, including paramedics,” Mr Bruning says.

The research that underpins the new framework was conducted by Dr Madeleine Juhrmann, a trained paramedic, Research Fellow at Flinders University, and PhD graduate of the University of Sydney.

Developed after consultation with paramedics, palliative care doctors and nurses, GPs, residential aged care nurses, and carers with lived experience - the framework presented to the review seeks to embed palliative care into paramedics’ core business.

“When adequately trained and supported, paramedics can enhance person-centred care, reduce avoidable hospitalisations and facilitate someone’s preferred place of death,” Dr Juhrmann says.

Submissions to ‘The Scope of Practise Review’ closed in late May, with the expert advisory committee due to deliver its final report at the end of 2024.

The Independent Scope of Practice Review - Joint Submission between Palliative Care Australia and the Australasian College of Paramedicine, can be viewed, shared, and download HERE.

Watch Dr Madeleine Juhrmann’s presentation at the 2023 Oceanic Palliative Care Conference via the 23OPCC Education Hub.