General practitioners usually continue to provide care for their patients during the palliative phase.
Specialist palliative care services have a consultative role, becoming more intensely involved with those patients with the most complex problems. Many patients cared for by GPs will not need a specialist referral.
Needs based referral
Referral can be made at any time in a patient’s illness. Reasons for referral relate to the nature of the patient’s problems, not just to their diagnosis or prognosis. A Needs Assessment Tool for Progressive Disease - Cancer has been developed by the Centre for Health Research & Psycho-oncology (CHeRP). It can help clinicians to efficiently identify issues of concern, particularly in areas that are not routinely well addressed such as psychosocial issues.
Referral triggers can relate to:
- The patient’s wellbeing – physical, psychosocial or existential
- The carer's wellbeing, and whether they need help in their caring role
- Complex nursing needs, or need for an allied health assessment
- Assistance needed with decisions about end-of-life choices, or to plan for crisis
- Need for palliative care services such as inpatient palliative care admission, volunteer support, bereavement follow up, and so on.
Palliative Care Australia has developed the National Palliative Care Service Directory. You can use this to find a specialist palliative care services. CareSearch has information on State Resources that may be useful in identifying other supports and services for patients and families.
If the primary treating doctor wants to discuss a palliative care issue, contacting the palliative care team for advice or to get support with a difficult case is appropriate.
CareSearch is an online source of free, trustworthy evidence-based palliative care information with separate sections written specifically for consumers and health professionals. We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.
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