Community experience shapes new palliative care unit at Westmead Hospital

Community members are collaborating with clinical staff, architects and planners to create a warm and homelike new facility for people with complex, life-limiting illnesses.

The new Supportive and Palliative Care Unit at Westmead Hospital is currently in the design stage with construction expected to commence later this year. 

The unit will include patient rooms with ensuites, social areas, consultation and meeting rooms, staff areas, a multi-faith space and gardens.  

“Westmead Hospital has a supportive and palliative care service but until now we have not had a purpose-built ward,” said acting head of Supportive & Palliative Care, Dr Katherine Allsopp.

“The project is still in the planning stages, but early engagement with consumer representatives ensures we capture lessons learnt through lived experiences as carers and patients’ loved ones can incorporate their feedback into the unit design.

“We’ve been so impressed with their insights and grateful for their dedication to this project,” Katherine said.

Consumer representatives have been part of the planning process at every stage, and although the design is still being planned, a small group was invited to inspect one of the proposed locations and provide feedback on the planning to date.

The group said the planning meeting was “really constructive” because it helped them visualise the ward and provide informed comment about the wayfinding and arrival experience into a warm and welcoming new unit.

The patient rooms will open onto beautifully landscaped courtyards and a convertible day bed for carers to stay overnight, which consumers said was “essential”.

Consumer representative Anne Stanfield said it was important to consider the needs of both the patient and the carers who can end up spending a significant amount of time in the unit.

“As consumer representatives we’ve been involved in other developments so we know that things like the carer beds are a must,” Anne said.

She said consumers appreciated being involved in the consultation process.

“It’s good to get some sense of how it will look. For me it’s an opportunity to see what the access will be like and how things will work,” Anne said.

The new unit will provide purpose-built facilities to support a holistic, person-centred service for patients and carers through the end-of-life experience.

Retired Western Sydney palliative care physician Philip Lee has also been a consumer representative on the project since its inception.

“My father and my father-in-law both had very complex pain issues during their cancer illnesses and the multidisciplinary Palliative Care team here was able to give them a better quality of life and dignity as well as providing our family amazing support during that difficult time,” Phil said.

Consumer feedback has been provided to the project team and the concept designs are expected to be released in mid-2024 for further consultation before the location is confirmed and the design is finalised later this year.

The Westmead Supportive and Palliative Care Unit project is part of the $93 million World Class End-of-Life Care Program delivering new or expanded facilities across NSW.

Together with existing Supportive & Palliative Care units at Auburn Hospital and Mount Druitt Hospital, the program will dramatically improve access to specialised supportive and palliative care services for people in Western Sydney.

The project is being delivered by WSLHD in partnership with Health Infrastructure. It is expected to be completed in 2026.

For more information, visit the website https://www.wslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/crown-princess-mary-cancer-centre/patient-care/new-supportive-palliative-care-unit-for-westmead-hospital

Would you like to share your ideas about a new Supportive & Palliative Care Unit? Tell us what’s important to you by completing this short survey: https://bit.ly/pall-care-survey