Defining 'specialist palliative care': findings from a Delphi study of clinicians


Forbat L, Johnston N & Mitchell I (2020) Defining 'specialist palliative care': findings from a Delphi study of clinicians. Australian Health Review, 44 (2), pp. 313-321.

Objective. This study aimed to achieve consensus regarding what distinguishes specialist from non-specialist palliative care to inform service organisation and delivery to patients with life-limiting conditions. Methods. A three-phase Delphi study was undertaken, involving qualitative interviews and two questionnaire cycles. Thirty-one clinicians (nurses, doctors and social workers) working with a wide range of patients participated in interviews, of whom 27 completed two questionnaire cycles. Results. Consensus was gained on 75 items that define specialist palliative care and distinguish it from non-specialist palliative care. Consensus was gained that specialist palliative care clinicians have advanced knowledge of identifying dying, skills to assess and manage complex symptoms to improve quality of life, have advanced communication skills and perform distinct clinical practices (e.g. working with the whole family as the unit of care and providing support in complex bereavement). Non-specialist palliative care involves discussions around futile or burdensome treatments, and care for people who are dying. Conclusions. Areas of connection were identified: clinicians from disease-specific specialties should be more involved in leading discussions on futile or burdensome treatment and providing care to people in their last months and days of life, in collaboration with specialists in palliative care when required.

Health Policy

Australian Health Review: Volume 44, Issue 2

Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online28/06/2019
Date accepted by journal20/02/2019
PublisherCSIRO Publishing