Context. Policymaking plays an important role in national palliative care services. The Japanese Cancer Control Act was implemented in 2006. Objectives. To evaluate changes in the structure and processes of palliative care services after implementation of the Cancer Control Act. Methods. We conducted annual nationwide surveys in designated cancer care hospitals (DCCHs, n = 349) between 2008 and 2010. The 65-item questionnaire was divided into seven domains: institutional framework, information to patient and family, practice of palliative care, activities of the palliative care teams (PCTs), members of PCTs, regional medical cooperation, and education. Increasing trends were tested using generalized estimating equation models. Results The response rates were ≥99%. All domains showed an increasing trend (P < 0.001). There were significant increases in full-time PCT physicians (27.4%-45.7%, Ptrend < 0.001), full-time PCT nurses (38.9%-88.0%, Ptrend < 0.001), and the median number of annual referrals to PCTs (60-80 patients, P < 0.001). Essential drugs were available in most DCCHs from baseline. Although outpatient clinics increased significantly (27.0%-58.9%, Ptrend < 0.001), community outreach programs did not (9.0%-12.6%, P = 0.05). Basic education was actively introduced for in-hospital physicians and nurses (78.2% and 91.4% in 2010), but often unavailable for regional health care providers (basic education for regional physicians and nurses: 63.9% and 71.1% in 2010). Conclusion. The Cancer Control Act promoted the development and enhancement of palliative care services in DCCHs. Regional medical cooperation and education are the future challenges of palliative care in Japan.
- Palliative care services
- designated cancer care hospital
- nationwide survey
- palliative care education
- regional medical cooperation