Advance care planning needs more attention

Palliative Care Australia and Advance Care Planning Australia are calling for a nationally collaborative approach to advance care planning reform in an updated policy statement released as part of the inaugural National Advance Care Planning Week.

Palliative Care Australia CEO Liz Callaghan said advance care planning provides a mechanism to improve the quality of care including end-of-life care for all people.

“Advance care planning enables the coordination of access to resources and services, to match anticipated care needs, and offers individuals the opportunity to take control of decisions which affect their care.”

However, the new policy highlights limitations in the understanding of, and resources to support advance care planning implementation across sectors.

“Promoting awareness of and engaging in advance care planning and end-of-life care discussions is also the responsibility of individuals and the wider community, and is not just for people with a life-limiting illness, or those nearing the end of life, but should be considered by everyone,” it says.

“PCA and ACPA affirm that conversations about advance care planning, dying and end-of-life require significant knowledge, experience and enhanced communication skills and should be delivered with respect, compassion and sensitivity. The competencies of the workforce engaged in advance care planning and end-of-life care discussions needs further attention.”

ACPA Medical Director Dr Karen Detering says there is a need to focus on increasing awareness and uptake of advance care planning in the community, education and health system.

The organisations recommend a nationally collaborative approach to advance care planning reform, to promote and monitor advance care planning uptake within Australia. 

This would include:

  • Consumer and community initiatives such as advance care planning advisory services, resources and awareness campaigns regarding advance care planning and end-of-life care options.
  • National guidelines to promote good practice in advance care planning, which should promote whole of health system implementation.
  • Investment in workforce development and training (undergraduate and post graduate) to build the capacity of all professionals to engage in end-of-life and advance care planning discussions
  • Harmonisation across state and territory legislation (and terminology) governing the scope and implementation of Advance Care Directives, as well as the appointment and status of substitute decision makers.
  • Development and implementation of the My Health Record as the national system for recording advance care planning conversations, Advance Care Plans and Advance Care Directives.
  • National Advance Care Directive prevalence data set to monitor uptake and to assist with implementation, policy development and evaluation.

View the full statement here

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