Standards inform us of what is expected. Standards for providing quality palliative care for all Australians have been in place since 1994 with version 5 released in 2018. These standards were developed by Palliative Care Australia (PCA) after extensive stakeholder consultation and seek to inform quality care for all Australians at the end of life. The National Palliative Care Standards (Edition 5) apply to specialist palliative care services.
The National Palliative Care Standards clearly outline the expectations for compassionate and appropriate specialist palliative care. As part of the development process they were mapped against other standards relevant to palliative care including:
Since publication of the National standards in 2018, other relevant standards have been released including the Aged Care Quality Standards. Although they do not refer to the provision of palliative care, reference is made to end-of-life care and three of the standards are particularly relevant:
- Standard 1: Consumer dignity and choice
- Standard 2: Ongoing assessment and planning with consumers
- Standard 3: Personal care and clinical care.
While standards describe what is expected, guidance helps us with the ‘how to’ of meeting expectations. Implementation strategies designed to meet standards will depend on the context of care.
In support of the standards for specialist palliative care, PCA provides services with a secure online Palliative Care Self-Assessment portal (PaCSA portal). This helps services to self-assess their activity against the National Palliative Care Standards. Many nurses will be aware of the standards, and those in specialist palliative care may have some involvement in working towards or completing a PaCSA self-assessment.
PCA have also developed Service Development Guidelines to communicate expectations in relation to service availability and workforce and system capabilities. In recognition of some differences between adult and paediatric care a Paediatric Addendum to the service guidelines was also published in late 2018.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has also developed resources to support high-quality end-of-life care in the hospital setting. This includes an End-of-Life Care Audit Toolkit designed to help services examine and improve the quality of their end-of-life care.