Who provides care within the primary health care setting 

As the composition of the palliative care workforce actively providing care to individual patients within the primary health setting can be varied, it is important to understand the scopes of practice and palliative care related services of individual health professional roles within this context.

General Practitioner

  • Critical role as they often know the patient and carer well, are experts in generalist care and have knowledge of health and social services in the community.
  • They are responsible for symptom, pain, and non-malignant disease management.
  • Prescribing to manage symptoms.
  • Proactive in clinical care planning to anticipate and provide care as the person’s clinical condition deteriorates, and as goals of care shift from treating illness towards comfort and managing death.
  • Regularly involved in end-of-life conversations, from initially preparing the ground for the discussion by establishing a strong doctor-patient relationship; gauging patients’ readiness to engage; and managing time availability. To learn more about this role visit our section for General Practitioners.


  • General practice nurses can initiate and facilitate advance care planning conversations with patients.
  • Advanced Nurses in palliative care settings provide specialized care where access to specialist physicians is challenging.
  • District nurses with their understanding of the patient and rural resources available, are a knowledgeable advocate for person-centred goal planning.
  • Nurse practitioners can coordinate palliative care.
  • Role of specialist palliative care nurses includes enabling access to resources such as equipment, medications, providing physical care of patients, managing symptoms, and educating the family. To learn more about this role visit our section for nurses.


  • Play an important role in optimising medication management for palliative care patients, with community pharmacies carrying formulations useful in managing terminal phase symptoms. To learn more about this role visit palliAGED.


  • Assist with emotional, physical, and social support. This is likely to include activities of daily living, personal and domestic care, shopping, and household tasks.
  • In consultation with the specialist palliative care team and the patient’s GP, they may undertake basic nursing care and be regarded as part of the care team.
  • Management of medications and with training can administer subcutaneous injections to treat symptoms. To learn more about this role visit our section on patients and carers.


  • Involved in care for patients with palliative care needs in the case of sudden deterioration, imminent death, falls or injury, and transportation from one site of care to another. To learn more about this role read this article The role of paramedics in palliative care (1.2MB pdf)

Allied Health professionals

  • Have an active role in physical care (optimising function and nonpharmacological symptom management), social, emotional, and spiritual care. To learn more about these roles visit our section on Allied Health Professionals.

Health professionals can be reimbursed for many of the palliative care activities they undertake within the primary health care setting. Read more in the Remuneration for Palliative Care Services page.

Last updated 24 August 2021