In a significant step forward for the private sector, St Vincent's Health Australia and Bupa have announced a two-year pilot program to provide patients with the choice to receive intensive, specialist palliative care services at home.
Managed by the Specialist Palliative Care Team at St Vincent's Private Hospital Brisbane, the program is available for Bupa members in Brisbane who have complex symptoms or are in the last few days of their life and want to receive palliative care at home.
Research by The Grattan Institute suggests there is an unmet need for at-home palliative care services – 70% of Australians would prefer to die at home however only about 14 per cent do so.
Cheryle Royle, CEO of St Vincent's Private Hospital Brisbane which operates Queensland's largest palliative care inpatient unit and a Specialist Palliative Care Community Service, has welcomed the partnership with Bupa1.
"Palliative care in Australia is facing some serious challenges, including a lack of funding and private sector involvement," she said.
"Bupa has stepped in to help address this need and provide choice for patients who want to receive palliative care at home, where they can be with family and friends – which we know can improve their quality of life.
"Without these options, many people find themselves pulled into the hospital system at the end of their life, which can be traumatic for them and their family."
Dr Dwayne Crombie, Managing Director of Bupa Health Insurance, agreed that there needed to be a greater focus on end-of-life care.
"With an ageing population it is becoming increasingly important that we explore models of care that provide people with dignity, respect and the choice to receive palliative care where they want," Dr Crombie said2.
"Research indicates that in the next 25 years the number of Australians who die each year will double.
"We know that people who receive early and appropriate palliative care at home can have an improved quality of life with fewer symptoms and longer survival than those managed in an acute hospital setting."
Commencing this month, the two-year pilot will see Bupa members in Brisbane eligible to choose at-home palliative care following assessment by the Specialist Palliative Care Team at St Vincent's Private Hospital Brisbane, either at the patient's home or at the hospital.
The individualised program will include:
- specialist palliative care multidisciplinary assessment and advanced care planning
- at-home specialist palliative care as required from physicians, palliative care nurses, and allied health professionals such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and counsellors
- intensive specialist palliative care which may include physician and nurse visits as well as additional at-home nursing support
- 24/7 telephone support access for patients, carers and family
- direct access to the hospital's Palliative Care inpatient unit if required, avoiding any need to present at the Emergency Department.
"When a patient is referred to the program they will receive a comprehensive assessment by the hospital's multi-disciplinary team, including the Medical Specialist. A care plan is then developed for the patient in conjunction with their carer or family," said Ms Royle.
"Some patients require immediate follow-up in the home, others may need short-term stabilisation in hospital prior to being admitted into the program.
"Some don't need the service for some time but know that they can call the hospital at any time to seek assistance from any member of the Specialist Community Team," she added.
St Vincent's Health Australia and Bupa will evaluate the pilot on outcomes including the patient's experience receiving palliative care at home compared to in hospital, the number of patients who received palliative care at their preferred location, and health care costs.
1Dying Well 2014, Grattan Institute, http://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/815-dying-well.pdf
2Dying Well 2014, Grattan Institute, http://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/815-dying-well.pdf
For more information contact Paul Andrews, Group Media Manager, St Vincent's Health Australia on 0409 665 495 or Jonathan Rose, Head of Media and Corporate Communications, Bupa on 0447 028 913.or send a message using the form below.