In Australia, approximately one third of the population live in rural areas. Another half a million people live in remote regions of the country. Rural and remote communities are often not well served by support services and networks in palliative care and those living in rural and remote areas have higher levels of illness and disease risk factors and less access to employment, education and income. [i]
With an ageing population, Australian general practitioners are required to care for increasing numbers of patients with advanced chronic conditions and have a central role to play in the provision of end of life care. Given the relative shortage specialised end of life care, nowhere is that role for GPs more important than in rural and remote communities.
To support GPs to deliver even better palliative care and advance care planning to patients with advanced chronic conditions, the Australian Government has funded Decision Assist. The program provides a range of clinical support and specialised education initiatives for GPs.
The GP palliative care educational opportunities are accredited with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM). They include a case-based interactive workshop, conducted at national and state GP conferences and through organisations that provide education to GPs and, as an alternative to face to face activities, an online education module is available through RRMEO and gplearning. A clinical audit and an Active Learning Module (RACGP)/Theory Practice Activity (ACRRM) are available and accredited for 40 Quality Improvement & Continuing Professional Development (QI&CPD) points with RACGP and 30 Practice Reflective Professional Development (PRPD) points with ACRRM. From May, GPs can also participate in an online ‘case of the month’ discussion that will be moderated by a palliative medicine specialist.
Later this year, Decision Assist is planning a series of specialist advance care planning workshops for GPs in rural and regional locations around the country.
For clinical management support, including a palliative care specialist doctor on call, Decision Assist offers a national Phone Advisory Service – 1300 668 908 – available 24/7 to provide advice on all palliative care issues including symptom control, medication management, psychosocial support and bereavement care. For help with advance care planning, specialist operators are available on 1300 668 908 from 8am until 8pm daily, to answer questions about communications needs, documentation, ethics and legalities.
More information about Decision Assist support for GPs is available at www.decisionassist.org.au and will be distributed at three sessions during the 13th National Rural Health Conference from 24-27 May 2015 in Darwin.
[i] http://www.caresearch.com.au/caresearch/tabid/181/Default.aspx (Rural and remote)