Palliative Care

What is meant by the term palliative care, when and where it is provided and by whom.

Page last updated: 29 August 2014

The scope of palliative care includes not only specialist palliative care services, but also care offered through primary care providers in a variety of settings. Given the widening scope of palliative care, the term palliative care is intended in its broadest sense to encapsulate both specialist and generalist care.

A number of definitions exist for palliative care, to which differing sectors of services adhere. The Commonwealth recognises that State and Territory jurisdictions and various parts of the sector work under different definitions. Each State and Territory jurisdiction has articulated their definition in their state/territory strategic documents.

Palliative care is defined by the World Health Organisation as: an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual. Palliative care:

  • provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
  • affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
  • intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
  • integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
  • offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
  • offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement;
  • uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated;
  • will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
  • is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.

Australian Government Support for Palliative Care

The Australian Government provides:
  • funding for national palliative care projects primarily focusing on education, training, quality improvement and advance care planning;
  • financial support to state and territory governments to operate palliative care services, a form of subacute care, as part of their health and community service provision responsibilities; and
  • subsidies for palliative care medicines under the PBS and palliative care consultations under the MBS.

National Palliative Care Projects - New funding - Closed 6 August 2014

To support the Australian Government's commitment to enhance the quality of palliative care service delivery and increase support for people who are dying, their families and carers, the Australian Government Department of Health has released an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for an open competitive grant round under the Chronic Disease Prevention and Service Improvement Flexible Fund, National Palliative Care Projects. The objective of the National Palliative Care Projects is to deliver nationally focused projects that:
  • Improve palliative care education and training of health and aged care workforce; and
  • Identify quality improvements that can assist in improving the delivery of palliative care services across Australia.
Through this support it is expected that the quality of palliative care service delivery is enhanced for the broader community.

Further information about the ITA can be obtained from the Department of Health website.

Palliative Care Services

For information on palliative care services, you may wish to contact your local general practitioner, state or territory health department or community health centre.

The National Palliative Care Service Directory can assist you to access information about palliative care services available in your local area.

National Palliative Care Projects

The Australian Government funds a range of national palliative care projects primarily focused on education, training, quality improvement and advance care planning.

National Palliative Care Strategy 2010

The National Palliative Care Strategy 2010, agreed to by the Australian, state and territory governments, is intended to inform palliative care policy and service development across Australia, to work towards a collaborative and coordinated approach to the delivery of Palliative Care across Australia.