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A whole of community approach to end-of-life

Last Tuesday evening I attended our A whole of community approach to end-of-life event in Katoomba, which featured guest speaker Dr Julian Abel, Director of Compassionate Communities UK and Vice President of Public Health Palliative Care International.

At the event, Dr Abel provided insights into how the Frome Community in Somerset (UK) demonstrated a 30% reduction in unplanned hospital admissions through the implementation of a Compassionate Communities model - an innovative approach to end-of-life care that recognises the importance of human connection, kindness and compassion to our overall health and wellbeing.

Earlier this year, we released our own report into end-of-life care, Caring for People at End-of-Life, which was commissioned to understand the current use of Advance Care Planning and to help identify the future planning needs for end-of-life care services within our region. A key finding of this report was that end-of-life care discussions are happening in a time of crisis, and that poor death literacy and lack of end-of-life planning was resulting in people dying in hospital, emergency rooms or ambulances, despite most people’s wish to die at home.

Our report also highlighted that in order to achieve better end-of-life planning, a whole of community approach to end-of-life care was needed. Treating people at end-of-life is not just up to our doctors, nurses and hospitals but requires all of us to come together and to think differently about death. We need to treat death as a normal part of life and involve everyone in the conversation about end-of-life care planning.

That is why we are excited to be the first Primary Health Network in Australia to partner with the GroundSwell Project, who will help us activate our own Compassionate Community in the Blue Mountains. The GroundSWell Project describes Compassionate Communities as “…a whole of community approach to end-of-life support where caring for one another at times of need, loss and/or crisis becomes the task and responsibility of everyone.”

Starting in the Blue Mountains, the GroundSwell Project will help us create care networks that support the dying and those grieving, and reconnect people to their community. Through a community development approach, their expertise will help us build alternative pathways for primary care providers to support those entering their last phase of life, and help them manage the dying experience more positively.

Death is an inevitable part of life. Let’s normalise death by doing what we can to create a death literate community who can think about and discuss death, understand the healthcare options available and articulate what we want at the end of our life.

We look forward to sharing more about our Compassionate Communities Project with you in the coming months.


Photo courtesy of David Brazil. Pictured from left to right: Kate Tye - Senior Manager, Primary Care Support and Development, Wentworth Healthcare provider of NBMPHN; Kerrie Noonan - Co-Founder, Director, Executive Officer, The Groundswell Project; Niki Read - Compassionate Communities Local Lead for The GroundSwell Project; Lizz Reay - CEO Wentworth Healthcare provider of NBMPHN; Dr Julian Abel -  Consultant in Palliative Care UK, Director of Compassionate Communities UK and Vice President of Public Health, Palliative Care International; Dr Alan Oloffs - Senior Staff Specialist & Acting Director - Supportive & Palliative Care NBMLHD; Professor Debbie Horsfall - Professor of Sociology, Western Sydney University.

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Lizz Reay's avatar
Lizz Reay is the CEO of Wentworth Healthcare, provider of the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network. Previously Deputy CEO of Nepean Blue Mountains Medicare Local & Nepean Division of General Practice, she has an extensive background in public health.
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