Victoria is now leading Australia in its commitment to optimal palliative care for people with a terminal illness and their families thanks to the injection of an extra $34.4 million in the recent Victorian budget.

"This is an unprecedented leap forward in funding for palliative care services," said Associate Professor Brian Le, Chairperson of Palliative Care Victoria, referring to the 38% increase in funding at a meeting today with the Premier, Hon. Ted Baillieu and the Minister for Health, Hon. David Davis.

The new funding recognises the increasing need for palliative care for people with a terminal illness and their families due to population ageing and the increasing incidence of chronic diseases - such as cancer and dementia.

"Most Australians are fearful of confronting our inevitable mortality. Knowing that they can access the right care at the right time and in the right place is immensely reassuring."

"The evidence demonstrates that palliative care improves quality of life, enables people to die with dignity and in comfort, and provides valued support to their families," said Associate Professor Le.

"The enlightened package of measures recognises that assisting people with a terminal illness to live and die well involves more than health services - it is also about social approaches that support families and engage volunteers in partnership with health services," he said.

Most people prefer to die at home and this choice will become more feasible with increased support for carers of family members or friends with a terminal illness, including respite, and flexible funding for equipment and home modifications.

"Funding to support the coordination, training and support of palliative care volunteers who make such a vital and valued contribution to the quality of life of people with a terminal illness and their families is also most welcome," said Associate Professor Le.

Key Facts and Statistics

  • Palliative care is for anyone living with a terminal illness (including children) and should be accessed early after this diagnosis.
  • 18,000 Victorians annually receive palliative care
  • In 2008, 35,500 Victorian deaths were registered
  • Between 25-50% of deaths are predictable
  • 85% of palliative care patients are people with cancer
  • People with end stage chronic diseases are also able to benefit from palliative care, e.g. Motor Neurone Disease (MND), HIV/AIDS, end stage heart, lung or kidney disease and advanced dementia
  • There are 30% costs savings for cancer patients receiving palliative care who are in their last year of life compared with those cancer patients who do not receive palliative care
  • The demand for palliative care is expected to grow by at least 4.6 % each year in Victoria
  • Cancer rates are expected to increase by 40% and dementia rates by 45% by 2020
  • Patients receiving palliative care are less likely to be admitted to emergency units
  • Patients receiving palliative care have reduced average hospital stays
  • In 2010-11, around $90million was spent on specialist palliative care in Victoria.

What is palliative care?

  • Palliative care is 'specialist health care and practical support' for those people living with a terminal illness. It involves early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and suffering. Improved access to palliative care services is essential to enable people with a terminal illness and their families to make the most of each day and to experience comfort and support at the end of life in the place of their choosing.
  • There are 39 community and 31 inpatient palliative care services, 19 consulting palliative care services, and 6 state-wide services.
  • Palliative care is a partnership between patients, carers, volunteers, health workers and service providers. Around 1,500 trained palliative care volunteers provide companionship, carer respite, transport and emotional support to those at the end of life. Palliative care is not only a health service.
Palliative Care Victoria