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Intern Med J. 2011 May;41(5):430-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-5994.2011.02484.x.

A point prevalence survey of hospital inpatients to define the proportion with palliation as the primary goal of care and the need for specialist palliative care.

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Southern Adelaide Palliative Services, Repatriation General Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.


The direct burden of people whose goal of care is a palliative approach has not been estimated in the acute care setting. Using a single time point, cross-sectional survey of all inpatient beds, an estimate was generated across a network of three South Australian public hospitals. One in three inpatients had a palliative approach as the goal of care and of these, only one in five had been referred to specialist palliative care services. Those referred were significantly more likely to have cancer and be younger men. Active recognition and documentation that a palliative approach frames the goals of care for this person needs to be incorporated more systematically into clinical practice in the acute care setting. At the same time, triggers for needs-based referral for specialist assessment should be implemented. Specialist palliative care services must also provide direct care for a wider range of patients than just those with cancer.

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