The demographic characteristics of the Australian population are changing and there is an increasing percentage of the population living longer with chronic illness and complex multi-morbidity. Many of these conditions are life-limiting and may require palliative care. Within the hospital environment many will be cared for by generalist clinicians with support from palliative care specialists where available and as needed.
Many people express a wish to die in their own home. Yet currently just over 50% of deaths occur in hospital/medical services, and hospital admissions for palliative care are increasing.  In the immediate future, hospitals are likely to remain the place of death for many people experiencing an expected death.
While acute health care services will develop their own processes and systems to provide palliative and end-of-life care, the National Consensus Statement: Essential elements for safe and high-quality end-of-life care provides guiding principles and elements so that safe, timely and high-quality end-of-life care can be achieved.
Essential Elements for Safe and High-Quality End-of-life Care defines end-of-life care as care within the last 12 months of life. Active dying occurs during in the terminal phase of life where death is imminent and likely within hours or days, or occasionally weeks. Palliative care which aims to improve the quality of life of patients and their families facing life-limiting illness is relevant across both end-of-life and terminal care.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care have developed in collaboration with the Australian Government, States and Territories, private sector providers, clinical experts patients and carers a set of National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards. These provide a consistent statement on the level of care consumers can expect from health service organisations including at the end of life.
The Delivering and Supporting Comprehensive End-of-life Care: A User Guide provides strategies and suggested practice for end-of-life care that health services and clinicians can utilise to meet the essential elements of safe and high-quality end-of-life care and the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards (second edition) requirements.
The Palliative Care Outcomes Collaborative (PCOC) helps palliative care providers to identify and measure the impact of their service delivery on people with a life-limiting illness, their families and carers.
End of Life Law provides accurate State and Territory information to aid in the challenging legal issues that are often associated with end-of-life decision-making.
Delivering and Supporting Comprehensive End-of-life Care: A User Guide
Current position statements highlight how palliative care is currently undertaken within the acute care setting:
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care Rapid Review of the Literature on End-of-life Care (1.15MB pdf) highlights new and emerging issues including care delivery considerations during a pandemic. It also provides best practice processes and organisational prerequisites for the implementation and delivery of end-of-life care.
ACSQHC Safety and Quality of End-of-life Care in Acute Hospitals (1.47MB pdf)
View other palliative care guidelines
Visit End-of-life Essentials to learn about National standards and quality end of life care.
Last updated 24 November 2022