Palliative care need in hospitals soars

Former Wallabies captain Mark Ella has encouraged Australians to plan for their end-of-life care.
Former Wallabies captain Mark Ella has encouraged Australians to plan for their end-of-life care.

The use of palliative care in Australian hospitals is rising at a faster rate than any other hospital service.

New data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on Wednesday shows the number of Australians admitted to hospital for palliative care has soared by 28 per cent, rising from about 57,600 in 2011-12 to almost 74,000 in 2015-16.

Over the same period, the total number of hospitalisations in Australia rose by 15 per cent.

The rise was seen across all age groups over this period, AIHW spokesperson Matthew James said.

"Although it's difficult to be definitive about the reasons for this rise, Australia's growing and ageing population - paired with a rise in chronic and incurable illnesses - has broadened the type of patients requiring palliative care," Mr James said.

In 2015-16, cancer was responsible for about half of all palliative care hospital admissions and deaths among palliative care patients.

The figures are a reminder of the need to talk about dying and end-of-life care.

This week former Wallabies captain Mark Ella joined a host of health advocates to promote palliative care.

He said every culture had a different approach to talking about dying.

"From an indigenous perspective, I've been brought up not to talk about death," Ella said.

"I hate the thought of talking about palliative care - I'd rather face the All Blacks, all 15 of them, any day, by myself."

But he said it was important to talk to loved ones about planning ahead.

Australian Associated Press