Primary Care - Provide Palliative Care
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Provide Palliative Care

Palliative care as defined by the World Health Organization 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."

The Palliative Care Service Development Guidelines produced by Palliative Care Australia state that 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 patient’s 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.

Care for people living with a life-limiting illness may be managed or coordinated by GPs or specialists, including geriatricians, physicians, oncologists, paediatricians, renal specialists, cardiologists and endocrinologists. Other essential team members will include nurses, allied health professionals and pharmacists.

People will have different levels of need for palliative care. Those with less complex needs may be managed in the primary care setting. Other people may have shared care arrangements, with palliative care provided in a collaborative manner between the GP and/or specialist, and the specialist palliative care service. Whereas people with more complex needs should be able to access care provided by specialist palliative care services.

Specialist palliative care services are multidisciplinary teams with specialised skills, competencies, experience and training in palliative care.

After assessing a client’s palliative care needs, the next steps are often to:

  • discuss, develop and implement a care plan with the person, their family and carer/s,
  • establish whether the symptoms can be managed by the current treating team,
  • consider referral to specialist palliative care services if symptoms or needs are severe, difficult to manage or are anticipated to become severe.

Page updated 29 March 2019