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Palliative care in general practice

GPs are well-placed to provide palliative and end-of-life care for patients.

Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of patients with life-limiting illnesses. It is often associated with the care of people with cancer, but those with non-cancer end-stage chronic or complex conditions also have significant needs that GPs can help to address.

End-of-life care is an important part of palliative care. It denotes the care and services given to people who are nearing the end of their life, and their families. It often involves bringing together health professionals to help patients to live out their life as comfortably as possible.

Improving palliative care

As our population ages and chronic diseases become more prevalent, improving palliative care has become an Australian Government priority. However, studies have shown many GPs lack confidence in providing this care. Reasons for this include patient complexity, inadequate training and insufficient resources. Poor communication and inadequate links with specialist palliative care services have also been identified as barriers.

An estimated 60 to 70 per cent of Australians would prefer to die at home. GPs and other primary health care providers play an integral role in fulfilling these wishes, where possible. NWMPHN works to support them by:

  • improving links between primary care professionals (GPs, practice nurses, residential aged care staff), community and inpatient services palliative care services
  • coordinating access to resources for primary health care providers regarding palliative care services in the region
  • coordinating access to quality palliative care education for health care professionals in the region.

The Greater Choice for At Home Palliative Care measure provides funding for coordinating palliative care through primary health networks. The first round of funding, in 2018, was used to create a panel of subject matter experts and community members to explore the concept and meanings of the term “dying well”.

This resulted in a report containing several recommendations regarding service gaps in the provision of palliative and end-of-life care in NWMPHN’s catchment. From this we have developed the Precious Time website for support and services in the community.

The current round of funding supports capability building of the primary care workforce, improved integration and coordination between primary care and palliative care providers, and promotion of end of life options to community.

For more information contact
Watch this video of our community panel forum, ‘What does dying well look like?’

We help GPs and primary health care providers to provide palliative care as part of usual practice. We provide education, resources and deliver other activities to support this.

Core Medicines List and pharmacy locator

To facilitate timely access to palliative care medicines, more than 80 pharmacies in NWMPHN’s region have agreed to stock the localised palliative care Core Medicines List (CML).

The CML was informed by evidence and through consultation with local palliative care providers including GPs, nurses and pharmacists.

Read more about the project on our website.

  • Location of pharmacies

    The map shows the location of pharmacies that have agreed to stock the CML.

  • Core Medicines List for community palliative care patients in the NWMPHN region

    Medicine Category First Line Medicines Minimum Quantity to stock Indication/(s) for use in terminal phase patients




    Clonazepam 2.5mg/mL (0.1mg/drop) Oral Liquid


    Midazolam 5mg/mL Injection

    (If an injection is required or preferred)

    10mL bottle



    5 or 10 ampoules


    Agitation associated with delirium

    Anxiety associated with dyspnoea

    Antipsychotic Haloperidol 5mg/mL Injection 10 ampoules



    Nausea, vomiting


    Anticholinergic Hyoscine butylbromide 20mg/mL Injection 5 ampoules


    Respiratory tract secretions

    Noisy breathing

    Antiemetic Metoclopramide 10mg/2mL Injection 10 ampoules Nausea, vomiting

    (High potency opioid)

    Morphine (sulfate or hydrochloride) 10mg/mL and/or 30mg/mL Injection 5 ampoules Dyspnoea


    This list does not restrict which medicines can be prescribed for individual patients. Some medicines may not be appropriate in certain circumstances (for example, metoclopramide and haloperidol should be avoided in Parkinson’s Disease). Any questions should be discussed with your local specialist palliative care provider.


    Note added 22 November 2023:
    NWMPHN is aware of some supply issues with metoclopramide injection, including the discontinuation of PBS-listed Maxolon. Alternative brands of metoclopramide have not yet been listed on the PBS. However, because they are not prohibitively expensive, the recommendation is to continue to prescribe metoclopramide as first line antiemetic medicine. While these supply issues continue, haloperidol injection is also an appropriate alternative therapy for nausea and vomiting in palliative care. However, it is more sedating. This recommendation is based on advice from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and local palliative care services.

  • Webinar: Anticipatory medicines and medication management for end-of-life care

    This recorded webinar equips GPs, community pharmacists and other health professionals with knowledge about anticipatory medicines and medication management for end-of-life care. It provides information and resources regarding the practical and legal aspects of prescribing and supplying medicines for end-of-life care.

    The webinar outlines the establishment of a local evidence-based core list to improve timely access to palliative care medicines for patients. The presenters also consider non-pharmacological options and referral pathways to support end-of-life care.

    1.5 Educational Activity RACGP CPD hours are available for GPs.

    Access the webinar by registering here. When prompted, enter the password $ZniZ9N= to view the recording. Attendance certificates will be sent via email within 2 weeks of viewing the webinar in its entirety, and RACGP CPD hours will be lodged within one month.  

Palliative Care Services in the NWMPHN region

The North and West Metropolitan Region Palliative Care Consortium supports the delivery of effective, responsive, and accessible palliative care services to people in the north west metropolitan region of Melbourne.