Defining primary health care 

Primary health care is the basis of health care within Australia, as it provides the first point of contact with the health system. It includes a broad range of activities and services that are delivered outside the hospital setting - from health promotion and prevention, to treatment and management of acute and chronic conditions. [1] It can be provided in the home or in community-based settings such as in general practices, other private practices, community health, local government, and non-government service settings. [2] While primary health care occurs in a number of settings, the ongoing relationship between the General Practitioner (GP) and patient ensures that the patient encounter is core to Primary Health Care with the GP providing a continuum of patient care throughout their life course.

The role of the General Practitioner

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) see palliative care as a fundamental component of general practice. Where there is a shift in primary focus from life-prolonging treatments towards symptom treatment and quality of remaining life. End-of-life care is focused on providing increased services and support for the person’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual / existential issues as they approach death. The General Practitioners role in end-of-life care includes a terminal care plan, care after death and bereavement support for patients and their families. To find out more go to RACGP aged care clinical guide (Silver Book) - Palliative and end-of-life care.

The Relationship Between the Primary Health Care and Palliative Care

People living with a life-limiting illness will need to have palliative care provided in many different settings – in their homes, acute hospitals, hospices which may be community-based or led by tertiary facilities, general practices, specialist clinics, aged care facilities, and other organisations in which people may be living (such as correctional facilities and locations caring for people living with severe mental illness or severe disabilities). [3] Read more about each palliative care setting from Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.

  1. Department of Health and Aged Care. About primary care [Internet]. Canberra: Department of Health and Aged Care; 2023 [updated 2023 Apr 3; cited 2024 May 28].
  2. Australian Department of Health. Fact Sheet: Primary Health Care; 2018 [cited 2021 Aug 22].
  3. Palliative Care Australia (PCA). Palliative Care Service Development Guidelines (340kb pdf). Canberra: PCA; 2018.

Last updated 28 May 2024