End-of-life care in GP settings—to improve care, more information needed

Monday, July 16, 2018

Information on end-of-life care in the primary care setting is difficult to obtain—which makes it difficult to support primary health practitioners in providing optimal care for patients and their families, says the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

The Association has released an Issues Brief through its Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research—Integrated information networks to support end-of-life care in general practice.

The paper was written by Prof. Claire Johnson (Monash University), Prof. Geoffrey Mitchell (University of Queensland, Prof. Angus Cook (University of Western Australia). Mr Jinfeng Ding (University of Western Australia) and Ms Laura Deckx (University of Queensland).

‘Australia’s population is ageing. As a consequence we are faced with an increasing number of people with physical and age related illnesses and disability, and an increasing demand for appropriate and supportive end of life care’, Vivian Bullwinkle Chair of Palliative Care Nursing, Prof Claire Johnson said.

‘At the moment end-of-life care tends to be happen in silos according to diagnosis or the bodily system most affected.

‘Specialist palliative care has evolved primarily for people with acute clinical needs—most often for those with a cancer diagnosis.

‘But the reality is that most end-of-life care is provided in the community by general practitioners, community nurses and associated health professionals, whether they recognise it as end-of-life care or not’, Prof Johnson said.

‘GPs are in a unique position to manage, coordinate and integrate care for people with advanced chronic diseases who may be nearing end-of-life.

‘Aspects of end-of-life of care could be improved in the community with a clear understanding of how care is currently provided and with appropriate training and support.

‘The problem is that while we have some data about what occurs in specialist palliative settings, we have very little information about the care that happens in the GP/primary care sector in a persons’ last year of life.

‘We don’t know the scope of such care, nor how GPs interact with specialists, hospitals and other services in such situations.

‘There are very few, if any, systems for case-based data capture and collection, and analysis. And there are no feedback mechanisms to promote the quality of end-of-life care.

‘The paper published today by the Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research makes a number of recommendations about how to fix these gaps in our knowledge of end-of-life care in general practice, which in turn will help develop effective and informed public policy on end-of-life care in the community’, Prof Johnson said.

For more information on the AHHA, visit http://ahha.asn.au.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, and community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries:

Dr Linc Thurecht

A/Chief Executive, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association

0401 393 729