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Palliative care standards open for feedback

Peak body calls for comment to help shape new, streamlined set of guidelines for best practice. 

Australia’s peak organisation for palliative care is calling for interested parties to provide feedback on the revised national draft standards.

Palliative Care Australia, which has been conducting the review process for more than 12 months, is now encouraging those with an interest in quality care at the end of life to submit their feedback.

PCA states that this includes GPs, community nurses, staff of residential aged-care facilities, staff of acute-care facilities, as well as specialist palliative care staff. The group also wants to hear from consumers – patients, carers and families.

“We want to encourage as many people as possible to contribute to this consultation so we can produce standards that clearly articulate and promote a vision for compassionate and appropriate end-of-life care across all settings,” said professor Patsy Yates, president of Palliative Care Australia. “The standards are a key tool to guide how service providers plan and deliver quality care at the end of life, therefore it is vital that they reflect current practice and clearly articulate the level of expectations for all services involved in the provision of care to people with a life-limiting illness, their families and carers.”

At this point, there are two major differences between the upcoming fifth edition and the previous standards. The first relates to the need to reflect changes in service delivery, particularly “the increased community expectations of palliative care in relation to supporting individual preferences at end of life and improved co-ordination of services”.

The second major difference is the format of the standards, designed to make them more accessible to all involved in palliative care service delivery.

Whilst PCA originally intended to refine and update the 13 standards printed in the 2005 version, the upcoming fifth edition now contains only six. Each proposed standard falls into one of the following categories: equitable access to palliative care; the person with a terminal condition; the provision of care; support for families and carers; quality improvement; and community support.

“These proposed six standards have been developed through combining and simplifying the existing 13 standards, [which] feedback indicates are too wordy, overlapping, repetitious, related or complementary. This should ease their use and applicability for those providing palliative care services,” Yates said.

PCA developed the first set of standards 20 years ago. Current guidelines – Standards for providing quality palliative care for all Australians (4th edition) – were published in 2005.

Yates said a rise in public awareness and the ageing population have highlighted the need for standards that reflect this rapidly evolving sector.

“Since the last update to the standards, there have been a lot of developments within the sector and a greater recognition that palliative care is everyone’s business.

“We’ve had greater recognition of the benefits of palliative care for people with a range of chronic diseases and conditions other than cancer, and also a realisation that we need to provide better community palliative care services to keep people out of acute hospitals at the end of life.

“These are just a few examples, and there are others, of why we need to review the standards to ensure their continuing relevance to community needs.”

The organisation stated that it was important to remember the standards remain open for consultation and that changes to the number of standards and content might result from this consultation process.

“PCA realises this is a big change, and is looking for further guidance from people who have experience in palliative care – and also from those who use or have used the current standards in practice.”

The consultation paper can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/1t5ksxd. It includes the draft standards and information on how to provide comments.

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