Strong rural uptake of Palliative Care Home Support Program

Western NSW and the Murrumbidgee have been the fastest take-up areas for the Palliative Care Home Support Program (PCHSP) over the past 12 months, according to figures released today, as part of National Palliative Care Week.

The program provides a free package of 48 hours of end of life care, for people at home, who are in the deteriorating or terminal phase of their illness. HammondCare, in partnership with Sacred Heart Health Service and Calvary Health Care Sydney, run the PCHSP in seven LHDs in NSW.

Figures released by health and aged care provider, HammondCare, show that the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (LHD) - incorporating towns like Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Young, Cootamundra and Gundagai - had the highest growth in referrals in the year to March 31 2016. Murrumbidgee LHD had a five-fold increase to 126 referrals compared to 24 referrals received in the same period of the previous year.

The Western NSW Local Health District (LHD), which covers a large geographical area in regional and rural NSW with most of the population concentrated in the larger cities and towns in the Bathurst Regional, Orange, Dubbo, Mid-Western Regional, Parkes, Forbes, Cabonne and Cowra local government areas, experienced more than a doubling in referrals over the past twelve months. Year-to-date figures to the end of March 2016 indicate 100 referrals were received from Western NSW LHD, compared to 39 referrals received in the same period of the previous year.

Large increase in referrals

The figures show that referrals across the seven LHDs in NSW have increased by 86 per cent over the past 12 months while a total of 1,050 people have accessed the service in the seven LHDs since it was introduced in October 2013, with 75 per cent dying at home. In comparison, research shows that while between 60 and 70 per cent of Australians would prefer to die at home, only 14 per cent do, with the majority of Australians dying in hospital.*

More than 550 care workers have also been trained in palliative care to work as part of the program, many in rural and remote areas, since its introduction in late 2013.

Concerted effort for the country

HammondCare’s lead palliative care academic, Prof Rod MacLeod said there had been a concerted effort to ensure this important program was being offered in rural and remote areas of NSW.

“This program provides people with choice and flexibility at a critical time of their lives, and is the most significant, innovative program for palliative care in NSW,” Prof MacLeod said.

“An essential aspect to this program is that it has been made available to more isolated communities throughout the state, to support the community palliative care services available to them, so they too can choose to die at home if they wish.

“Palliative care is and always has been about quality of life and ‘dying with dignity’ – enabling people to spend their final days in as much comfort and care as we can offer. Now, more and more, this can happen in the place of their choice,” Prof MacLeod said.

The Palliative Care Home Support Program is available statewide, and is funded by the NSW Ministry of Health as an initiative under the NSW Government’s $35 million commitment to increase access to community-based palliative care.

*Grattan Institute, “Dying Well”, Sept 2014