Palliative care is a critical part of healthcare across the life course. Each year, 40 million people around the world will need palliative care. In 2014, the World Health Assembly considered the first-ever global resolution on palliative care. Resolution WHA67.19 calls upon the World Health Organisation and its member states to improve access to palliative care as a core component of health systems. The resolution also highlighted the importance of primary health care and community/home-based care.
In Australia, the 2018 National Palliative Care Strategy provides not just a vision of palliative care but “represents the commitment of the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to ensuring the highest possible level of palliative care is available to all people”. The Strategy is built on a set of guiding principles, which are foundational to ensuring that all Australians experience the palliative care they need. This speaks to the person and their family and carers being at the heart of care.
This strategy has informed a series of projects and initiatives from the Commonwealth Department of Health such as the Greater Choice at Home Palliative Care measure; the Comprehensive Palliative Care in Aged Care measure; and the National Palliative Care Projects. These initiatives and programs have been designed to help Australians access and receive the best palliative care possible by supporting education, training, quality improvement and advance care planning.
The 2020-2023 National Palliative Care Projects provide a broad range of activities, resources and training to support a capable and effective workforce as well as projects to meet the needs of Australia’s diverse population. Some of these projects will address the needs and the potential barriers faced by specific groups as they engage with advance care planning, palliative care and bereavement. Others address the education and training needs of a specialist and generalist workforce working with patients, residents and clients at different periods of life from paediatrics to aged care.
An evaluation of the 2017-2020 national palliative care projects (pdf 2.39MB) looked at each of the individual projects as part of a larger investment across five domains: effectiveness, appropriateness, efficiency, contribution and sustainability. The report indicated that most projects delivered or exceeded their workplan and that these project activities met sector needs. Collaboration between the projects was common and beneficial. The evaluators also noted in particular the alignment between the projects and the 2018 Strategy's goal to build capacity in palliative care delivery.
Sometimes when working in a project it can be difficult to see how everything fits together. The national strategy, the program of national projects and the evaluation together provide a framework for seeing progress and opportunity. Over the coming months, we are looking forward to profiling a number of the 2020-2023 national projects. We are keen to build an awareness of these projects and their contribution to palliative care to encourage community participation and increase reach. Together they offer a formidable range of activities and a chance to improve palliative care across Australia for all Australians.
Professor Jennifer Tieman, CareSearch Director, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Flinders University