Palliative care reimagined: a needed shift

Abel, J & Kellehear, A. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care doi:10.1136/bmjspcare-2015-001009

Abstract: Palliative care, since its inception over 60 years ago, has set the standard of how to care for people who are dying. Key features among these standards have been the professional development of clinical specialisms such as palliative medicine and palliative nursing; the essential addition of the multidisciplinary team to these two new specialisms that included social, spiritual and allied health workers—an outgrowth of the recognition that routine work with the dying, their carers, and the bereaved required more than solely clinical skills; and the unique partnership with communities that yielded the volunteer movement within palliative care. Professional, evidence-based symptom management and the importance of supportive care in its widest possible sense were and remain the cornerstones of the modern palliative care approach.

However, the majority of people with terminal illnesses do not have access to palliative care teams, whose main focus of care remains patients with cancer. In the context outlined above this paper therefore poses two key questions: how can we provide an equitable level of care for all people irrespective of diagnosis and how can we increase the range and quality of non-medical/nursing supportive care in a context of diminishing resources? We argue that an important opportunity and solution can be found by adopting the principles of a public health approach to end-of-life care.

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