Palliative care is a key priority for the NSW Government. Whether it’s helping people with life-limiting conditions to maximise their quality of life or ensuring comfort at the end of life, palliative care is an essential component of modern health care services.
The NSW Government is committed to increasing people's access to palliative care across NSW and giving people with a life-limiting illness greater choice about where they receive care at the end of their life.
The NSW Ministry of Health is currently developing an End of Life and Palliative Care Framework 2019-2024. The Framework will articulate NSW Health’s vision of an integrated approach to palliative and end of life care planning and services within the NSW health system.
In 2018/19, targeted funding of $27 million has been allocated to continue initiatives commenced in 2017-18 and for the following new initiatives:
- 27 new positions for social workers, allied health and Aboriginal Health Workers to support patients and families
- improved access to palliative care services to support people with a culturally and linguistically diverse background and people with disability
- projects to support service redesign aimed at improving patient care and promoting integrated care
- scope the needs of carers and develop options to leverage existing support programs for carers of people receiving palliative care
- support for volunteer services.
In 2017-18 the NSW Government announced $100 million in funding over four years for palliative care (2017-18 to 2020-21, see media releases: Regional NSW to benefit from a record $100 million palliative care package and NSW Budget: record $100m palliative care funding). This funding focuses on increasing workforce capacity and improving access to services in rural and regional NSW. Specific initiatives in 2017-18 included:
- enhanced community-based palliative care in Western Sydney, including a 24-hour, seven days a week on-call specialist palliative care service at home, supporting patients to die in their place of choice
- an additional nine palliative care specialists in rural and regional areas
- two specialist positions to provide relief to other specialists in rural and regional areas
- an additional 30 palliative care nurses providing care in hospitals, homes and nursing homes
- funding for workforce training and development:
- $900,000 shared among all local health districts and specialty health networks to provide palliative care training for nursing and allied health staff
- $300,000 shared among regional and rural local health districts to provide scholarships for nurses and allied health workers to enhance their palliative care skills.
- NSW Community Pharmacy Palliative Care Initiative to improve medication management for palliative care patients.
This $100 million in funding is on top of the estimated $210 million spent each year on palliative care services across NSW and adds to previous enhancements that established the following palliative care services:
- NSW Palliative Care Home Support services (Last-Days-of-Life packages) support people who wish to die at home. The services provide home-based supports, such as domestic assistance and personal care, that link to the care provided by specialist services. Since December 2013 the service has provided over 10,000 packages of support across NSW.
- A state-wide network of paediatric palliative care services supporting a "pop-up" care model which mobilises specialist supports around the child who is dying and their family, particularly in rural and regional areas. It also provides access to after-hours advice for medical professionals.
- The state-wide Palliative Care After-Hours Helpline (1800 548 225) for palliative care patients, their carers and families, and health professionals. The Helpline focuses on assisting rural and regional areas where after-hours care may be limited.
- New initiatives have been developed to support clinicians to speak with their patients early and regularly about end-of-life plans and decisions.
- A new state-wide service has been developed to support palliative care volunteers.
- The NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation’s (ACI) Palliative Care Network attracts over 420 members.
- The ACI’s Palliative and End of Life Care: A Blueprint for Improvement provides a flexible guide for health services to meet the needs of people approaching and reaching the end of life, their families and carers.
- Achieve the goals of the NSW Government Plan to Increase Access to Palliative Care 2012-2016.
- Palliative care flexible funding pool for local health districts and other NSW Health organisations to address the palliative care needs specific to their communities.