Between 2015–16 and 2019–20, palliative care-related hospitalisations have increased more rapidly than hospitalisations for all reasons – 18% increase (from 73,600 to 86,900) compared with 5.8% increase (from 10.5 to 11.1 million), respectively. Similarly, the national population rate increased from 17.5 to 19.3 per 10,000 for palliative care hospitalisations, and 13.2 to 14.8 for other end-of-life hospitalisations over this period. However, the national population rate for all hospitalisations decreased from 4,389 to 4,364 per 10,000 over the same period (Figure APC.4).
The number of palliative care-related hospitalisations increased in both public and private hospitals across most states and territories in the 5 years to 2019–20, except for Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory which saw a slight decrease in hospitalisations in public hospitals over this period.
The largest increase in palliative care-related hospitalisations between 2015–16 and 2019–20 was for those aged under 20 – 45% increase in hospitalisations over this period (from 800 to 1,200 hospitalisations), compared with 24% increase in those aged 70 years and over (from 47,400 to 58,800; see Table APC.3).
Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic
Between 2018–19 and 2019–20, the number of palliative care-related hospitalisations increased by 4.2%. While this increase was smaller than that observed in the 12 months to 2018–19 (5.1% increase), it was comparable to increases observed in the 12 months to 2016–17 (4.5% increase) and steeper than increases in the 12 months to 2017–18 (3.3% increase). In contrast, the number of hospitalisations for all reasons declined by 2.8% in the 12 months to 2019–20 and reversed the increasing trend observed over the preceding 4 years (Figure APC.4).
These findings suggest that the public health response and health outcomes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic to June 2020 had a limited impact on palliative-care related hospitalisations but may have contributed to the large fall in hospitalisations for all reasons. Given that the data included in this section captures only the first 3 months of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in Australia, more data over a longer time period is required to assess the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on palliative-care related hospitalisations.
Figure APC.4: Trends in hospitalisations by hospitalisation type and sector, 2015–16 to 2019–20