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60% of Australians in need of palliative care are not receiving it

A recent report indicates that 62% of individuals in need of palliative care did not receive it, while 80% of anticipated deaths in Australia require it.

According to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), many Australians with terminal illnesses are being deprived of the necessary palliative care to ensure a peaceful and dignified end to their lives. The report, titled “Palliative care and health service use for people with life-limiting conditions,” is based on data from 2019/20.

Released during National Palliative Care Week, the report emphasizes the value of palliative care for individuals with terminal diagnoses. However, it also highlights the widespread lack of access to the symptom management, emotional, and social support that palliative care offers.

The AIHW discovered that 8 out of every 10 individuals who pass away in Australia annually need palliative care to address various illnesses such as cancers, kidney failure, liver failure, dementia, and heart disease—equating to nearly 2,000 individuals every week or 110,000 per year.

Despite this high demand, 62% of those in need do not receive palliative care, leading to unnecessary suffering and distress for them and added stress for their families.

The likelihood of receiving required care differs depending on the illness—those with dementia and heart disease are least likely to receive it, while individuals with cancer are more likely to. Additionally, individuals residing in major cities have better access compared to those in rural and remote areas where only around 15% of people with life-limiting illnesses receive timely palliative care.

Barriers to Access

Camilla Rowland, the Chief Executive Officer of Palliative Care Australia (PCA), noted, “We are aware of barriers hindering timely access to palliative care for various communities. This new data provides a clearer view of those who are not receiving the care they require.”

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