A doctor holds an elderly patient's hands

New national program to improve palliative care

New national program to improve palliative care

$11.6M funding for National Palliative Care Coordination and Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration Programs

The University of Wollongong (UOW) has been awarded two major grants, which total $11.6 million in Australian Government funding. The two programs combined will make a substantial contribution to improving coordination and collaboration, and patient outcomes in palliative care.

The new National Palliative Care Coordination (NPCC) program is to distinguish between primary and specialist palliative care and establish a national specialist palliative care referral and discharge criteria.

This newly funded initiative will achieve this by collaborating with representatives from the key medical, nursing, and allied health colleges and government stakeholders, along with expert researchers, and key clinical services and primary health network throughout the country.

Collaboration with the spectrum of health care workers across primary care, acute care, emergency care, and specialist palliative care will improve understanding of workflows and interrogate existing datasets, evidence, and surveys to fuel evidence-based and clinically useful recommendations.

The program will strengthen primary, emergency and specialist care for those with life-limiting illnesses by improving outcomes, access, collaboration and coordination. The aim is to help reduce unnecessary hospital visits, hospital admissions, and unnecessary emergency department visits and improve access and outcomes for people who require palliative care, including underserved populations from regional and rural communities.

The National Palliative Care Coordination Framework for Australia supports primary care physicians, including community-based GPs, nurse practitioners and treating specialists, in managing palliative care problems and in initiating specialist palliative care referral for more complex issues.

Associate Professor Barbara Daveson, who is a Chief Investigator on the program said: “Australia has an ongoing challenge to ensure patients and their carers receive equitable and effective care.”

“National agreement regarding what distinguishes the need for primary versus specialist palliative care is lacking, and national specialist palliative care referral and discharge criteria don’t exist.

“The new funding for the National Palliative Care Coordination program is designed to help address this by establishing models and systems to effectively respond to increasing burden of chronic conditions in Australia.”

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research and Sustainable Futures) and a Chief Investigator of the program, Professor David Currow said: “This investment helps provide sustainable solutions and positions Australia as a country that is continued to being committed to being a leader in research, innovation and health systems solutions of benefit for those living with life-limiting illnesses.

“The new National Palliative Care Coordination program can address one of the challenges faced in Australia and internationally.

“Having the evidence and structures to develop and implement solutions at scale are becoming increasingly important within health care, and protocols to ensure accurate assessment, referral and discharge are of paramount importance both for the patients and their carers, but also for the ongoing development of medical, nursing and allied health specialties.”

The Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration (PCOC) program, which is a core national program, will also receive renewed funding of $8.7 million to systematically improve palliative care patient and carer outcomes, including pain, symptom control and symptom-related distress.

This program supports palliative care providers across Australia to embed point-of-care patient-reported and clinician-rated outcome measures to both identify and drive quality improvements.

PCOC Director and Chief Investigator Associate Professor Daveson said PCOC will also advance nationally consistent data collection mechanisms and reporting to help improve health systems, service delivery and ultimately patient and carer outcomes.

“The Australian health system is one of the best in the world but there is a need to continue to pursue optimal outcomes for everyone in society. Trends in national information from the program have shown clear improvements in outcomes, but there are still areas of great clinical importance, such as distress-related to pain, that need to be improved,” Associate Professor Daveson said.

“The Government’s renewed funding of the Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration means that the program can continue to collaborate with every service across the country that provides palliative care so that together we continue in the perennial pursuit of improving patient outcomes for not just some but for every patient.

“Patient-reported outcomes, which are key to the PCOC program are also key to improving health systems. This means the program can help shape and improve the Australia health system by listening to the voices of those that matter most, the patients themselves.”

Professor Currow said: “UOW is one of the very few universities in the world that have been able to develop, implement and sustain national models driven by patient-reported outcomes, this means the PCOC program continues to make a unique and valuable contribution both within Australia, and internationally.”