There is a difference between ‘end of life care’ and ‘palliative care’. As defined by the Plan, ‘end of life care’ is a broad term for care that is planned for, negotiated with or provided to people at the end of their lives (SA Health 2009). ‘Palliative care’ is a specific type of end of life care provided by specialised teams whose substantive work is with people with terminal illnesses and their families.
As with many other elements of its healthcare system, Australia’s end of life care, including palliative care, fares well internationally. Australia ranks second on the Economist Intelligence Unit's ‘Quality of Death Index,’ which considers the end-of-life healthcare environment and the availability, cost and quality of end of life care. This ranking places Australia second only to the United Kingdom, the home of the hospice movement, and just before New Zealand. Unlike these two countries, and many other countries, though, Australian palliative care does not receive private donations (Economist Intelligence Unit 2010).
The majority of South Australians do not receive inpatient palliation in the twelve months before their death. To gain a true picture of the system’s capacity to properly manage end of life care requires consideration of those people who die without receiving palliative care. This review therefore took the broader approach of considering end of life care as well as progress on implementation of the Plan.