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This section presents information on episodes of admitted patient palliative care occurring in hospitals, using data on palliative care-related hospitalisations from the National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD). The NHMD is a collation of data about admitted patient care in Australian hospitals, based on the Admitted Patient Care National Minimum Data Set. For further information see the data sources section.

Information is presented on hospitalisations for which palliation was provided. Time series data for the period from 2010–11 to 2014–15 are presented to show the changes in hospitalisations for palliative care over this period. Wherever possible, corresponding data on all hospitalisations have been provided for comparative purposes.

Palliative care is provided in a range of health care settings, including neonatal units, general practices, acute hospitals and residential and community aged care services. This section also presents information on public acute and private hospital-based hospice care units.

Key points

  • In 2014–15, there were about 65,000 palliative care-related hospitalisations reported from public and private hospitals in Australia.
  • People aged 75 and over accounted for just over half (51.6%) of all palliative care-related hospitalisations.
  • There was a 19.2% increase in palliative care-related hospitalisations between 2010–11 and 2014–15, compared to a 14.7% increase in hospitalisations for all reasons over the same period.
  • In just under half (45.9%) of all hospitalisations in which the patient died, the patient had received palliative care.
  • About half (50.6%) of palliative care hospitalisations involved cancer as the principal diagnosis.
  • In 2014–15, a total of 123 public acute hospitals reported that they have a hospice care unit, with just over one-third (35.8%) located in New South Wales.
  • Of the 678 public acute hospitals (excluding public psychiatric hospitals) in Australia, about 1 in 6 (18.1%) had a hospice care unit.

The information in this section was last updated in May 2017.

A palliative care-related hospitalisation is defined as an episode of admitted patient care for which the principal clinical intent was palliation during all or part of that episode. Two NHMD data items—Care type and Additional diagnosis—are used to capture information on palliative care: if either (or both) has a code of 'palliative care', that hospitalisation is included as being in scope (see Identifying palliative care hospitalisations for further information).

Admitted patient palliative care in 2014–15

In 2014–15, there were 64,939 palliative care-related hospitalisations reported from public and private hospitals in Australia, accounting for about 1 in 160 (0.6%) of all hospitalisations (10.2 million). A higher proportion of palliative care-related hospitalisations were for males (53.5%) than females (46.5%), and the rate was also higher for males than females (29.6 and 25.4 per 10,000 population, respectively) (Table APC.1).

People aged 75 and over accounted for over half (51.6%) of all palliative care-related hospitalisations; the average age of these patients was 72.7, with little difference between the sexes. This was considerably older than the average age of 54.7 years for all hospitalisations for all reasons. Only about 1 in 10 (10.5%) of the total number of palliative care-related hospitalisations was for patients aged under 55.

Although there were more palliative care-related hospitalisations for males overall, among people aged 25–54 there were more hospitalisations for females than males. For people aged 85 and over, there were 15.5% more hospitalisations for females than males (Table APC.2).