Recent reports highlight an inconsistent provision of palliative and end-of-life (palliative) care across Australia, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas. Palliative care improves quality of life and the experience of dying, and all people should have equitable access to quality needs-based care as they approach and reach the end of their lives. A palliative approach to care is crucial in rural and remote Australia where there is a reliance for such care on generalist providers amid the challenges of a limited workforce, poorer access, and vast geography. This article describes the development and implementation of the Far West NSW Palliative and End-of-Life Model of Care, a systematic solution that could drive improvement in the provision of a quality palliative approach to care and support from any clinician in a timely manner, for patients, their families and carers anywhere.
INTRODUCTION: All healthcare providers can influence the delivery and outcome of a palliative approach to care, ensuring that everyone has 'equitable access to quality care based on assessed need as they approach and reach the end-of-life'. This study mapped the delivery of palliative care in far west New South Wales (NSW), Australia, with objectives to: identify who was involved in providing such care in the Far West Local Health District (FWLHD), how they connect, and any gaps in the network describe what care was provided and identify any challenges to care provision. The mapping process and outcomes can be used to guide the implementation of new models of care by building on the localised knowledge of current networks, provision of care and challenges.
METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with members of the specialist palliative care service and generalist healthcare providers within the FWLHD. Fifteen interviews were conducted over 7 months. Content analyses of interview transcripts identified processes and challenges as well as improvements for care. A network analysis was conducted to identify unidirectional connections and 'map' the services.
RESULTS: The vast network demonstrates extensive long-term involvement in palliative care as well as established connections and opportunities for improving communication between the services and providers involved in palliative care. Palliative practice is varied and challenging within the network; challenges include communication, early identification and education. Mapping the existing networks, resources and relationships proved invaluable to guide the implementation of a palliative approach to care.
CONCLUSION: The implementation of a palliative approach, as with any service model, requires agreement and engagement across relevant healthcare organisations, services and providers. Mapping and understanding the network of providers (and organisations) that support healthcare delivery before implementing new models of care will identify strengths and gaps within the network. This knowledge will then support new and integrated connections that enhance the provision of care so that it is acceptable, fit for purpose and regionally responsive.