The government believes that upwards of 50% of the 160,000 Australians who are estimated to pass away every year will benefit from palliative care in the time before their death, making a multi-million dollar funding commitment to improve support.
On Thursday, health and aged care minister Greg Hunt issued a joint statement with aged care services minister Richard Colbeck making the funding announcement.
End of life and palliative care services will be improved with investment exceeding $56 million.
Thirty-one primary health networks nationwide will receive $37 million of the overall funding, with another $19 for three programs being run by the University of Wollongong and Queensland University of Technology to improve end of life care in residential aged care.
“Every person should be able to live their best life until they die and this program will put systems in place for every home to routinely screen their residents for end-of-life and put in place an end-of-life plan for every resident” @k_eagar @AHSRI_UOW https://t.co/i62InF8kX7
— UOW (@UOW) December 1, 2021
According to the government, the university programs will lift the workforce capacity of more than 2000 aged care staff and improve palliative care skills. This will directly benefit thousands of senior Australians in residential aged care every year.
“Our government’s response to the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety includes significant investment in delivering higher quality care in residential aged care,” Colbeck said.
As part of the government’s wider aged care agenda, the minister said that $294.1 million had been invested over eight years (starting from 2017-18) to strengthen the palliative care system, including national workforce education, carer support, quality improvement, national communications and research activities and advance care planning.
Speaking to the $37 million for primary health networks, Hunt said that being able to offer Australians access to appropriate care at the right time at home would mean appropriate end-of-life arrangements and also reduce hospitalisation for palliative care.
“We’ve already seen a successful pilot program across 11 PHN sites, linking end-of -life care systems and services in primary and community care settings and increasing community awareness of local palliative care services,” Hunt said.
Another separate suite of reforms worth $17.7 billion would deliver higher quality care in residential aged care, Colbeck said, with changes to the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) to come into effect in October 2022. With extra government money going through the AN-ACC the minister said quality ‘consumer-directed palliative care’ would be offered to those who needed it in aged care facilities.
“[These changes] will deliver fairer and more equitable funding to the sector for the delivery of care to the 240,000 Australians living in residential aged care facilities,” Colbeck said.
“The improved funding through AN-ACC includes support to deliver quality consumer-directed palliative care to care recipients who enter residential care for the final stages of their life.”