In-home health and aged care service provider Silver Chain Group has partnered with WA Health to enhance palliative care for Western Australians including a new overnight respite service for carers.

Silver Chain CEO Dale Fisher said the 12-month pilot would provide more than 1000 occasions of overnight respite for carers of people receiving palliative care. Combining specialist care for clients with overnight respite for carers bridges the gap in a much-needed service.

The second pilot program will enhance the referral process to improve access to the in-home palliative care service.

Ms Fisher said the pilot programs would add depth to Silver Chain’s innovative approach to palliative care services which have been delivered to Western Australians for the past 30 years.

“We are pleased to co-design comprehensive services that better meet the needs of our clients and their carers. This initiative will further develop quality palliative care services that can be integrated across the full range of health and community care services in the future,” Ms Fisher said.

Ms Fisher said that while Silver Chain provided respite for carers during the day, there was a significant gap in overnight respite services across all service providers. Silver Chain’s specialised overnight service would be provided by skilled and experienced staff to care for people with progressive life-limiting illness, including people who may be very close to the end of their life.

“By offering this new service, we want to support the choices of our clients, including those who wish to die at home, while removing some burden from their carers,” Ms Fisher said.

“Trained nurses and support workers, who work as part of the specialist team, will go into the home and enable the carer to sleep. Carers will have peace of mind knowing their loved one is being looked after by someone who is clinically capable to manage palliative care respite, as distinct from other respite services.” 

“Carer stress happens when carers become overwhelmed in meeting the needs of their loved one, particularly towards the end of their life. If the carer cannot continue, their loved one would have to go to a hospice or hospital, creating pressure for those services and not reflecting their wish to be at home. 

“Overnight carer respite can make all the difference to the client and their carer, creating a smoother palliative care journey, including to the end of life.” 

More than 3,000 Western Australians receive palliative care from Silver Chain every year, averaging 600 people per day.

The second pilot program involves improving access to palliative care by using an innovative new eligibility assessment tool and having a single point of contact for new palliative care referrals.  

The new tool will provide a more refined triage process for assessing people’s eligibility for palliative care. The  new approach will give greater certainty about when a referral from a medical practitioner can be accepted,  speed up the process of referral and service access, and improve GP and client experience and engagement with palliative care. Medical practitioners will also be provided with a single point of contact.

“At the point of referral, the tool will assess the person’s need for care. It will improve the right clients being able  to receive care at the right time,” Ms Fisher said.  

 Ms Fisher said another feature of the tool was its ability to provide equitable patient access. 

“We want to be able to provide people who are seeking support anywhere in the metro area with the same level of access to services. This is very important to us,” Ms Fisher said. 

“Not only does this new streamlined approach to referrals support people’s desire to be at home in their final stages of life, but it also reduces the burden on families and carers through better access to palliative care services.”