Background: Bereavement support is an integral part of palliative care. However, audits of Australian palliative care services have consistently identified bereavement care as one of the highest priorities for improvement.
Objective: We assessed equity of access to bereavement support across Australian palliative care services by using survey data to compare services according to location (metropolitan vs. regional). We also evaluated changes in bereavement support over the last decade by comparing findings to results of a previous Australian study.
Design, Setting, and Participants: A national, cross-sectional online survey of Australian palliative care services conducted from August to September 2017.
Main Outcome Measures: Services' self-reported provision of bereavement support.
Results: One hundred and eighty services (84%) responded. Of these, 91% provided bereavement support. Most offered support to all bereaved persons connected to the service. More than 80% of services provided a wide range of support types. Metropolitan services were more likely than regional services to offer specialist bereavement interventions. The staff most involved in coordinating and delivering bereavement support were social workers, nurses (particularly in regional areas), and bereavement coordinators/counselors (particularly in metropolitan areas). Resource limitations presented barriers to provision of bereavement support.
Conclusions: Across Australia, in principle, access to bereavement support through palliative care services remains largely equitable. Nevertheless, observed variations in the type of professional delivering care and the level of support indicate that a more consistent approach is required. An increase in the range of supports available compared with a decade ago signifies a more comprehensive approach to bereavement support by many Australian palliative care services.
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