New Zealand’s population is ageing and an increasing number of people are living longer. All sectors recognise the imperative to prepare for these trends. In the health sector, our system needs to change to meet the growing demand for palliative care, which is projected to increase by 51 percent over the next 22 years. So it is in everyone’s interests to plan now for a refreshed direction for palliative care to meet increasing demands on (and expectations of) palliative care services and service providers.
The vision for New Zealand is that people live well and die well. People need to have confidence that at the end of their life they and their loved ones, if needed, will have access to high-quality palliative care that is consistent across all settings. This will be provided by a palliative care system that is culturally competent so people can stay connected with their cultural values throughout their end of life journey. While this plan is inclusive of all cultures and belief systems, it recognises the unique place tagata whenua play in design of future palliative care services in New Zealand.
Palliative care in New Zealand engages almost the entire health system. It connects with other government agencies and is a focus for spiritual and cultural groups. Whānau, and family carers, volunteers and other community members are increasingly recognised as critical members of the care team, who also need support.
Throughout the engagement for the Review of Adult Palliative Care Services in New Zealand in 2016 (the Review), feedback from the sector showed that some areas have excellent palliative care practice and many people die well in New Zealand. However, it also indicated that good practice is variable and not everyone can access high-quality care (Ministry of Health 2017).
The Review identifies challenges that will make it difficult to meet future palliative care demands. It recommends a refreshed strategic direction for palliative care to meet those demands.
The Review sets out five priority areas. These areas are developed in response to evidence about what matters to people at the end of their life. They are also in line with the New Zealand Health Strategy’s five strategic themes and New Zealand Health Strategy Roadmap of Actions 2016.
Review actions set a future focus for palliative care that draws on collective work by the Ministry of Health and the health sector. These actions provide the foundations for a multidisciplinary approach through good primary palliative care in primary care, community, hospital and aged residential care settings.
An action plan is needed to provide a structured approach to inclusive and collaborative strategic planning and to improve the way that each of the Review’s five priority areas work in practice.