The Government’s action plan for adult palliative care services has been described as “a step in the right direction” but “there’s more work to do” according to the New Zealand Aged Care Association.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman yesterday launched the Review of Adult Palliative Care and the Palliative Care Action Plan at Hospice North Shore, Auckland.

The review, undertaken by the Ministry of Health, in consultation with a Palliative Care Advisory Panel, focuses on improving services over the next three to five years, while taking into account the expected demand for those services over the next 10 to 20 years.

NZACA chief executive Simon Wallace says in the next 20 years the number of deaths in New Zealand requiring palliative care is projected to increase by around 50 percent to over 37,000 per annum and more than a third of those deaths will be in aged residential care facilities.

“Evidence shows that deaths in aged residential care (ARC) have increased faster than for any other place of death in New Zealand – the provision of palliative in ARC is now the norm.”

Wallace says he is keen for the Government and the public to fully understand these figures and to recognise the huge role that aged residential care plays in palliative care.

Dr Coleman says palliative care is a priority for the Government and a major focus of the action plan will be responding to feedback from people receiving palliative care and their families.

The plan presents a refreshed strategic direction for palliative care and proposes five priority areas, including improving the variety and quality of services and adopting a more patient-centred model of care. There will also be an increased emphasis on primary palliative care being provided by all health care professionals caring for a person, with the support of palliative care specialists.

“The Action Plan supports the review and provides a roadmap. It is the result of consumer and sector feedback, with a focus on the individual’s holistic care.

“One of the first actions will be developing a framework for collecting patients and their families’ experiences of adult palliative care to understand what is working well and identify opportunities for improvement.

“Workshops will be held for health and consumer representatives to ensure greater collaboration between services and better co-ordinated care for patients.”

In Budget 2015 the Government invested $76.1 million into hospice services. That included $24.1 million to support the delivery of new palliative care services in aged residential care, primary care and other community settings.

Wallace believes a palliative care supplement for aged care providers is what is needed.

“Reforms in the UK, the USA and Australia all show that a supplement paid for palliative care benefits the whole of the health system – it ensures high quality palliative care can be provided in residential care and community settings reducing costs for hospitals.”

“We acknowledge the positive work that is being done to which the NZACA is contributing, but the success of this action plan can only be measured once delivered and implemented.”

The Review of Adult Palliative Care and the Palliative Care Action Plan are available on the Ministry of Health website, www.health.govt.nz

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