Integrated approach to Advance Care Planning recognised

23 April 2013
An integrated approach and significant progress over a short period of time has led to a project introducing Advance Care Plans (ACP) to the Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) region, being recognised at an upcoming international conference in Australia.
The International Society of Advance Care Planning and End of Life Care invited the WDHB and Whanganui Regional Primary Health Organisation (WRPHO) to present their collaborative project to the society’s annual conference in May.
WRPHO director and Whanganui doctor Alan Mangan, WRPHO clinical director Julie Nitschke and WDHB aged care and rehabilitation strategic advisor Jennie Fowler will travel to Melbourne to share their learnings.
 “We are really excited to share how advance care planning was introduced across Whanganui’s primary and secondary health care settings, and to pass on the knowledge gained by taking this approach,” says Mrs Fowler.
Mrs Fowler says advance care plans help people decide how they would like to be cared for if they become sick or are dying.
“The project aimed to support health care workers, such as GPs, to encourage people to discuss their health care preferences as a normal part of family conversation,” says Mrs Fowler.
“It made sense for advance care planning to be rolled out across the sector so that patients could decide how they wanted to plan for the future regardless of whether this was with their GP, within their rest home or at the hospital.”
Mrs Fowler says that after an initial ACP discussion, most people were committed to continuing their ACP conversation with their family/whanau, health professionals and/or lawyer. 
“Most people see the value that having their plan in place will have in decreasing any uncertainties about their health care wishes.
“Importantly, they can see how a plan will help reduce the distress and anxiety for their family/whanau,” says Mrs Fowler. “And patients find it comforting that their doctors will be informed of those wishes.”
For those interested in planning for the future, Advanced Care Plan forms can be downloaded from Forms can also be found at GP practices, residential care facilities and a number of community services and agencies. 
Once completed, people are advised to send their form to Whanganui DHB’s Health Records Department where an alert is set up to let clinicians know that a person admitted to hospital has an Advanced Care Plan in place.