Muswellbrook residents asked to help highlight the shortage of palliative care services in NSW

CANCER Council NSW is calling on Muswellbrook residents to help highlight the shortage of palliative care services in NSW.

Palliative care can make a huge difference to the quality of life of people living with advanced cancer or terminal illness.

Having access to effective pain management and symptom control as well as emotional and social support can greatly reduce the fear, isolation and stress felt by many cancer patients and their loved ones and carers.

Although some people are able to access palliative care, when and where they need it, many others miss out due to the serious shortage of palliative care doctors and nurses across NSW.

The problem is made worse for many Aboriginal people with cancer due to the lack of culturally-appropriate palliative care services.

“Lack of palliative care can put a terrible burden on patients and their families at a time of great need,” Hunter Cancer Action Network spokesperson Barbara Gaudry said.

“I know that from the sad stories I hear from affected patients and carers and from personal experience too.”

Cancer patients, carers and families in Muswellbrook who have been affected by advanced or terminal cancer within the past five are being asked to share their cancer journey with Cancer Council NSW.

Until April 30, patients and carers can phone the 13 11 20 Information and support service to answer a short series of questions with a health professional, in confidence.

The information collected by Cancer Council will help paint a picture of the significant difference that palliative care staff make to people’s lives, as well as the impact that gaps in access to palliative care have on the Hunter community.

“It’s very sad to think that many people in NSW, particularly in communities like the Hunter, can’t access specialist palliative care and support,” Ms Gaudry said.

“Although the current palliative care doctors and nurses do a wonderful job we know they are under great pressure because of the staff shortages.

“This situation must change.”

At the advanced stage of illness, many patients miss out on their wish to remain at home in comfort with their loved ones instead of having to spend their final days in hospital because of the lack of palliative care services.

“We want to ensure that everyone in the Hunter can get the care and support they need, when and where they need it,” Ms Gaudry said.

“That is why we are campaigning for change.”

Cancer Council NSW’s palliative care call-in results will add further evidence to the I Care for Palliative Care advocacy campaign, which is calling on the government to fund at least 10 extra palliative care doctors, 129 extra palliative care nurses as well as culturally-appropriate palliative care services for Aboriginal people with cancer. 

For those unable to phone 13 11 20, an online questionnaire will be available on the Cancer Council NSW website during April.