Introduction: To support general practitioners (GPs) in providing early palliative care to patients with cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure, the RADboud university medical centre indicators for PAlliative Care needs tool (RADPAC) and a training programme were developed to identify such patients and to facilitate anticipatory palliative care planning. We studied whether GPs, after 1 year of training, identified more palliative patients, and provided multidimensional and multidisciplinary care more often than untrained GPs.
METHODS: We performed a survey 1 year after GPs in the intervention group of an RCT were trained. With the help of a questionnaire, all 134 GPs were asked how many palliative patients they had identified, and whether anticipatory care was provided. We studied number of identified palliative patients, expected lifetime, contact frequency, whether multidimensional care was provided and which other disciplines were involved.
RESULTS: Trained GPs identified more palliative patients than did untrained GPs (median 3 vs 2; p 0.046) and more often provided multidimensional palliative care (p 0.024). In both groups, most identified patients had cancer.
CONCLUSIONS: RADPAC sensitises GPs in the identification of palliative patients. Trained GPs more often provided multidimensional palliative care. Further adaptation and evaluation of the tools and training are necessary to improve early palliative care for patients with organ failure.
BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to gain insight into the experience of time of terminal patients with cancer. Experience of time is relevant in palliative care in both policy and practice. On a policy level, the Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY), the most used outcome measure for cost-effectiveness analysis in healthcare, assumes time to be a linear and additive variable, which is one of the reasons that its applicability in palliative care is questioned. On a practice level, a better understanding of the experience of time of patients with limited time left, could help to recognize if and how these patients can have a more meaningful use of time. The main focus of this study was to discover whether time perception of these patients in their last months of life had changed as compared to earlier periods of time in their lives in good physical health. The pace of time and time dominance (comparison of past, present and future) were investigated.
METHODS: In several hospices and palliative care units in the Netherlands, twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted with terminal patients with cancer.
RESULTS: Time perception at the end of life had changed for most participants. They all lived on a day-to-day basis in the terminal phase, independent of their way of life in the healthy phase. Furthermore, the experienced duration of a day turned out to be very different between patients, but also between days, depending on daily activities. Besides, for most patients for whom the future was the dominant period of time in the healthy phase, the dominant period of time in the terminal phase had become the past.
CONCLUSIONS: Time perception of terminal patients with cancer differed from the time perception in their relatively healthy phase of life. This suggests that the LY part of the QALY is not comparable for all phases of life.
BACKGROUND: The Surprise Question (SQ) "would I be surprised if this patient were to die in the next 12 months?" has been suggested to help clinicians, and especially General Practitioners (GPs), identify people who might benefit from palliative care. The prognostic accuracy of this approach is unclear and little is known about how GPs use this tool in practice. Are GPs consistent, individually and as a group? Are there international differences in the use of the tool? Does including the alternative Surprise Question ("Would I be surprised if the patient were still alive after 12 months?") alter the response? What is the impact on the treatment plan in response to the SQ? This study aims to address these questions.
METHODS: An online study will be completed by 600 (100 per country) registered GPs. They will be asked to review 20 hypothetical patient vignettes. For each vignette they will be asked to provide a response to the following four questions: (1) the SQ [Yes/No]; (2) the alternative SQ [Yes/No]; (3) the percentage probability of dying [0% no chance - 100% certain death]; and (4) the proposed treatment plan [multiple choice]. A "surprise threshold" for each participant will be calculated by comparing the responses to the SQ with the probability estimates of death. We will use linear regression to explore any differences in thresholds between countries and other clinician-related factors, such as years of experience. We will describe the actions taken by the clinicians and explore the differences between groups. We will also investigate the relationship between the alternative SQ and the other responses. Participants will receive a certificate of completion and the option to receive feedback on their performance.
DISCUSSION: This study explores the extent to which the SQ is consistently used at an individual, group, and national level. The findings of this study will help to understand the clinical value of using the SQ in routine practice.
BACKGROUND: Although it is often recommended that general practitioners (GPs) initiate advance care planning (ACP), little is known about their experiences with ACP. This study aimed to identify GP experiences when conducting ACP conversations with palliative patients, and what factors influence these experiences.
METHODS: Dutch GPs (N = 17) who had participated in a training on timely ACP were interviewed. Data from these interviews were analysed using direct content analysis.
RESULTS: Four themes were identified: ACP and society, the GP's perceived role in ACP, initiating ACP and tailor-made ACP. ACP was regarded as a 'hot topic'. At the same time, a tendency towards a society in which death is not a natural part of life was recognized, making it difficult to start ACP discussions. Interviewees perceived having ACP discussions as a typical GP task. They found initiating and timing ACP easier with proactive patients, e.g. who are anxious of losing capacity, and much more challenging when it concerned patients with COPD or heart failure. Patients still being treated in hospital posed another difficulty, because they often times are not open to discussion. Furthermore, interviewees emphasized that taking into account changing wishes and the fact that not everything can be anticipated, is of the utmost importance. Moreover, when patients are not open to ACP, at a certain point it should be granted that choosing not to know, for example about where things are going or what possible ways of care planning might be, is also a form of autonomy.
CONCLUSIONS: ACP currently is a hot topic, which has favourable as well as unfavourable effects. As GPs experience difficulties in initiating ACP if patients are being treated in the hospital, future research could focus on a multidisciplinary ACP approach and the role of medical specialists in ACP. Furthermore, when starting ACP with palliative patients, we recommend starting with current issues. In doing so, a start can be made with future issues kept in view. Although the tension between ACP's focus on the patient's direction and the right not to know can be difficult, ACP has to be tailored to each individual patient.
Background: Advance care planning (ACP) is a crucial element of palliative care. It improves the quality of end-of-life care and reduces aggressive and needless life-prolonging medical interventions. However, little is known about its application in daily practice. This study aims to examine the application of ACP for patients with cancer in general practice.
Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study in 11 general practices in the Netherlands. Electronic patient records (EPRs) of deceased patients with colorectal or lung cancer were analysed. Data on ACP documentation, correspondence between medical specialist and GP, and health care use in the last year of life were extracted.
Results: Records of 163 deceased patients were analysed. In 74% of the records, one or more ACP items were registered. GPs especially documented patients' preferences for euthanasia (58%), palliative sedation (46%) and preferred place of death (26%). Per patient, GPs received on average six letters from medical specialists. These letters mainly contained information regarding medical treatment and rarely ACP items. In the last year of life, patients contacted the GP over 30 times, and 51% visited the emergency department at least once, of whom 54% in the last month.
Conclusions: Registration of ACP items in GPs' EPRs appeared to be limited. ACP elements were rarely subject of communication between primary and secondary care, which may impact the continuity of patient care during the last year of life. More emphasis on registration of ACP items and better exchange of information regarding patients' preferences are needed.
BACKGROUND: Nursing homes are among the most common places of death in many countries.
AIM: To determine the quality of dying and end-of-life care of nursing home residents in six European countries.
DESIGN: Epidemiological survey in a proportionally stratified random sample of nursing homes. We identified all deaths of residents of the preceding 3-month period.
MAIN OUTCOMES: quality of dying in the last week of life (measured using End-of-Life in Dementia Scales - Comfort Assessment while Dying (EOLD-CAD)); quality of end-of-life care in the last month of life (measured using Quality of Dying in Long-Term Care (QoD-LTC) scale). Higher scores indicate better quality.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Three hundred and twenty-two nursing homes in Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and England. Participants were staff (nurses or care assistants) most involved in each resident's care.
RESULTS: Staff returned questionnaires regarding 1384 (81.6%) of 1696 deceased residents. The End-of-Life in Dementia Scales – Comfort Assessment while Dying mean score (95% confidence interval) (theoretical 14–42) ranged from 29.9 (27.6; 32.2) in Italy to 33.9 (31.5; 36.3) in England. The Quality of Dying in Long-Term Care mean score (95% confidence interval) (theoretical 11–55) ranged from 35.0 (31.8; 38.3) in Italy to 44.1 (40.7; 47.4) in England. A higher End-of-Life in Dementia Scales – Comfort Assessment while Dying score was associated with country (p = 0.027), older age (p = 0.012), length of stay 1 year (p = 0.034), higher functional status (p < 0.001). A higher Quality of Dying in Long-Term Care score was associated with country (p < 0.001), older age (p < 0.001), length of stay 1 year (p < 0.001), higher functional status (p = 0.002), absence of dementia (p = 0.001), death in nursing home (p = 0.033).
CONCLUSION: The quality of dying and quality of end-of-life care in nursing homes in the countries studied are not optimal. This includes countries with high levels of palliative care development in nursing homes such as Belgium, the Netherlands and England.
BACKGROUND: An ageing population in the EU leads to a higher need of long-term institutional care at the end of life. At the same time, healthcare costs rise while resources remain limited. Consequently, an urgency to extend our knowledge on factors affecting efficiency of long-term care facilities (LTCFs) arises. This study aims to investigate and explain variation in technical efficiency of end-of-life care within and between LTCFs of six EU countries: Belgium (Flanders), England, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. In this study, technical efficiency reflects the LTCFs' ability to obtain maximal quality of life (QoL) and quality of dying (QoD) for residents from a given set of resource inputs (personnel and capacity).
METHODS: Cross-sectional data were collected by means of questionnaires on deceased residents identified by LTCFs over a three-month period. An output-oriented data-envelopment analysis (DEA) was performed, producing efficiency scores, incorporating personnel and capacity as input and QoL and QoD as output. Scenario analysis was conducted. Regression analysis was performed on explanatory (country, LTCF type, ownership, availability of palliative care and opioids) and case mix (disease severity) variables.
RESULTS: 133 LTCFs of only one type (onsite nurses and offsite GPs) were considered in order to reduce heterogeneity. Variation in LTCF efficiency was found across as well as within countries. This variation was not explained by country, ownership, availability of palliative care or opioids. However, in the 'hands-on care at the bedside' scenario, i.e. only taking into account nursing and care assistants as input, Poland (p = 0.00) and Finland (p = 0.04) seemed to be most efficient.
CONCLUSIONS: Efficiency of LTCFs differed extensively across as well as within countries, indicating room for considerable efficiency improvement. Our findings should be interpreted cautiously, as comprehensive comparative EU-wide research is challenging as it is influenced by many factors.
BACKGROUND: The provision of high-quality palliative care in nursing homes (NHs) is a major challenge and places demands on the knowledge and skills of the staff.
AIM: This study assesses the palliative care knowledge of staff in NHs in Europe.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional study using structured survey Setting/participants: Nurses and care assistants working in 322 representative samples of NHs in Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Finland, Poland and Italy. Palliative care knowledge is measured with the Palliative Care Survey. Scores on the scales range between 0 and 1; higher scores indicate more knowledge.
RESULTS: A total of 3392 NH-staff were given a questionnaire, and 2275 responded (67%). Knowledge of basic palliative care issues ranged between 0.20 in Poland (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.19; 0.24) and 0.61 in Belgium (95% CI 0.59; 0.63), knowledge of physical aspects that can contribute to pain ranged between 0.81 in Poland (95% CI 0.79; 0.84) and 0.91 in the Netherlands (95% CI 0.89; 0.93), and knowledge of psychological reasons that can contribute to pain ranged between 0.56 in England (95% CI 0.50; 0.62) and 0.87 in Finland (95% CI 0.83; 0.90). Factors associated with knowledge were country, professional role and having undertaken formal training in palliative care.
CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge of nurses and care assistants concerning basic palliative care issues appears to be suboptimal in all participating countries, although there is substantial heterogeneity. Education of nursing staff needs to be improved across, but each country may require its own strategy to address the unique and specific knowledge gaps.
BACKGROUND: Due to the disease's progressive nature, advance care planning (ACP) is recommended for people with early stage dementia. General practitioners (GPs) should initiate ACP because of their longstanding relationships with their patients and their early involvement with the disease, however ACP is seldom applied.
AIM: To determine the barriers and facilitators faced by GPs related to ACP with people with dementia.
DATA SOURCES: We systematically searched the relevant databases for papers published between January 1995 and December 2016, using the terms: primary healthcare, GP, dementia, and ACP. We conducted a systematic integrative review following Whittemore and Knafl's method. Papers containing empirical data about GP barriers and/or facilitators regarding ACP for people with dementia were included. We evaluated quality using the Mixed-Method-Appraisal-Tool and analyzed data using qualitative content analysis.
RESULTS: Ten qualitative, five quantitative, and one mixed-method paper revealed four themes: timely initiation of ACP, stakeholder engagement, important aspects of ACP the conversation, and prerequisites for ACP. Important barriers were: uncertainty about the timing of ACP, how to plan for an uncertain future, lack of knowledge about dementia, difficulties assessing people with dementia's decisional capacities, and changing preferences. Facilitators for ACP were: an early start when cognitive decline is still mild, inclusion of all stakeholders, and discussing social and medical issues aimed at maintaining normal life.
CONCLUSION: Discussing future care is difficult due to uncertainties about the future and the decisional capacities of people with dementia. Based on the facilitators, we recommend that GPs use a timely and goal-oriented approach and involve all stakeholders. ACP discussions should focus on the ability of people with dementia to maintain normal daily function as well as on their quality of life, instead of end-of-life-discussions only. GPs need training to acquire knowledge and skills to timely initiate collaborative ACP discussions.
BACKGROUND: In our aging society, palliative care should be a standard component of health care. However, currently it is only provided to a small proportion of patients, mostly to those with cancer, and restricted to the terminal phase. Many general practitioners (GPs) say that one of their most significant challenges is to assess the right moment to start anticipatory palliative care. The "Surprise Question" (SQ1: "Would I be surprised if this patient were to die in the next 12 months"?), if answered with "no", is an easy tool to apply in identifying patients in need of palliative care. However, this tool has a low specificity. Therefore, the aim of our pilot study was to determine if adding a second, more specific "Surprise Question" (SQ2: "Would I be surprised if this patient is still alive after 12 months"?) in case SQ1 is answered in the negative, prompts GPs to plan for anticipatory palliative care.
METHODS: By randomization, 28 GPs in the south-eastern part of the Netherlands were allocated to three different groups. They all received a questionnaire with four vignettes, respectively representing patients with advanced organ failure (A), end stage cancer (B), frailty (C), and recently diagnosed cancer (D). GPs in the first group did not receive additional information, the second group received SQ1 after each vignette, and the third group received SQ1 and SQ2 after each vignette. We rated their answers based on essential components of palliative care (here called RADIANT score).
RESULTS: GPs in group 3 gave higher RADIANT scores to those vignettes in which they would be surprised if the patients were still alive after 12 months. In all groups, vignette B had the highest mean RADIANT score, followed by vignettes A and C, and the lowest on vignette D. Seventy-one percent of GPs in groups 2 and 3 considered SQ1 a helpful tool, and 75% considered SQ2 helpful.
CONCLUSIONS: This innovative pilot study indicates that the majority of GPs think SQ2 is a helpful additional tool. The combination of the two "Surprise Questions" encourages GPs to make more specific plans for anticipatory palliative care.
Background: To help general practitioners (GPs) in early identification of patients with palliative care (PC) needs, this pilot study aimed to determine the potential of the combined original surprise question (SQ1) ('Would I be surprised if this patient died within the next 12 months?') and the second surprise question (SQ2) ('Would I be surprised if this patient was still alive after 12 months?'). We hypothesized that answering these SQs would trigger them to make a multidimensional care plan.
Methods: 26 Slovenian GPs, randomized into 4 groups, were invited to write a care plan for each of the four patients described in case vignettes (2 oncologic, 1 organ failure and 1 frailty case). GPs in group 1 were only asked to write a care plan for each patient. GPs in group 2 answered SQ1 and GPs in groups 3 and 4 answered SQ1 and SQ2 before writing the care plan. The type and number of PC aspects mentioned in the respective care plans were quantified into a numeric RADboud ANTicipatory (RADIANT) score.
Results: Mean RADIANT scores in groups 1-4 were 2.2, 3.6, 2.5 and 3.1, respectively. When comparing the different vignettes, vignette B (terminal oncologic patient) scored best (3.6). Mean RADIANT scores in groups 3 and 4 were slightly higher for GPs who would be surprised compared to GPs who would not be surprised if the patient was still alive in 12 months.
Conclusion: The combined SQs were considered helpful in the early identification of patients in need of PC in Slovenian general practice.
BACKGROUND: Several studies have highlighted the need for improvement in palliative care delivered to older people long-term care facilities. However, the available evidence on how to improve palliative care in these settings is weak, especially in Europe. We describe the protocol of the PACE trial aimed to 1) evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the 'PACE Steps to Success' palliative care intervention for older people in long-term care facilities, and 2) assess the implementation process and identify facilitators and barriers for implementation in different countries.
METHODS: We will conduct a multi-facility cluster randomised controlled trial in Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and England. In total, 72 facilities will be randomized to receive the 'Pace Steps to Success intervention' or to 'care as usual'. Primary outcome at resident level: quality of dying (CAD-EOLD); and at staff level: staff knowledge of palliative care (Palliative Care Survey).
SECONDARY OUTCOMES: resident's quality of end-of-life care, staff self-efficacy, self-perceived educational needs, and opinions on palliative care. Economic outcomes: direct costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). Measurements are performed at baseline and after the intervention. For the resident-level outcomes, facilities report all deaths of residents in and outside the facilities over a previous four-month period and structured questionnaires are sent to (1) the administrator, (2) staff member most involved in care (3) treating general practitioner, and (4) a relative. For the staff-level outcomes, all staff who are working in the facilities are asked to complete a structured questionnaire. A process evaluation will run alongside the effectiveness evaluation in the intervention group using the RE-AIM framework.
DISCUSSION: The lack of high quality trials in palliative care has been recognized throughout the field of palliative care research. This cross-national cluster RCT designed to evaluate the impact of the palliative care intervention for long-term care facilities 'PACE Steps to Success' in seven countries, will provide important evidence concerning the effectiveness as well as the preconditions for optimal implementation of palliative care in nursing homes, and this within different health care systems.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: The study is registered at www.isrctn.com - ISRCTN14741671 (FP7-HEALTH-2013-INNOVATION-1 603111) Registration date: July 30, 2015.
BACKGROUND AND AIM: Patients with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have poor quality of life. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of proactive palliative care on the well-being of these patients.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial is registered with the Netherlands Trial Register, NTR4037.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: A pragmatic cluster controlled trial (quasi-experimental design) was performed with hospitals as cluster (three intervention and three control) and a pretrial assessment was performed. Hospitals were selected for the intervention group based on the presence of a specialized palliative care team (SPCT). To control for confounders, a pretrial assessment was performed in which hospitals were compared on baseline characteristics. Patients with COPD with poor prognosis were recruited during hospitalization for acute exacerbation. All patients received usual care while patients in the intervention group received additional proactive palliative care in monthly meetings with an SPCT. Our primary outcome was change in quality of life score after 3 months, which was measured using the St George Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ). Secondary outcomes were, among others, quality of life at 6, 9 and 12 months; readmissions: survival; and having made advance care planning (ACP) choices. All analyses were performed following the principle of intention to treat.
RESULTS: During the year 2014, 228 patients (90 intervention and 138 control) were recruited and at 3 months, 163 patients (67 intervention and 96 control) completed the SGRQ. There was no significant difference in change scores of the SGRQ total at 3 months between groups (-0.79 [95% CI, -4.61 to 3.34], p=0.70). However, patients who received proactive palliative care experienced less impact of their COPD (SGRQ impact subscale) at 6 months (-6.22 [-11.73 to -0.71], p=0.04) and had more often made ACP choices (adjusted odds ratio 3.26 [1.49-7.14], p=0.003). Other secondary outcomes were not significantly different.
CONCLUSION: Proactive palliative care did not improve the overall quality of life of patients with COPD. However, patients more often made ACP choices which may lead to better quality of care toward the end of life.
Background: Continuous sedation, contrary to euthanasia, has been increasingly accepted among medical professionals worldwide. In the Netherlands, a national guideline for continuous palliative sedation has been developed to contribute to the quality of palliative sedation practice. The present follow-up study investigated whether the practice of continuous sedation has changed after the introduction of this guideline.
Methods: This study compared the practice of continuous sedation before and after the introduction of the guideline on December 7, 2005. A baseline measurement was performed between February 1, 2003, and May 1, 2005, with an enrollment of 492 physicians (medical specialists, general practitioners, and nursing home physicians). From January 1 to June 30, 2007, after the introduction of a national guideline for palliative sedation, a follow-up study was performed with the respondents of the baseline study. Physicians were asked to report on their last case of deep and continuous sedation in the past 12 months.
Results: This study reports the results of the follow-up study and compares them to the results of the baseline study. The response rate was 69.3% (n = 341). Of these physicians, 160 reported a last case of continuous sedation in both the baseline and the follow-up studies. Physicians reported a significant increase in patient involvement in decision making, from 72.3% to 82.2%. Pain remained the most often reported reason to start sedation, whereas exhaustion as a reason for sedation increased. The use of benzodiazepines increased from 69.9% to 90.4%. In the first and second measurements, symptom-directed treatment during sedation was applied in 56% to 58% of the cases. In the second period, there was more often an explicit decision to not give artificial hydration during sedation (78.8% vs 56.3%). Of the physicians, 34.2% were convinced that sedation shortened the life of the patient because of dehydration.
Conclusions: After the introduction of the guideline, physicians reported that changes in palliative sedation practice conform to the recommendations of this guideline. For example, benzodiazepines were used for sedation more frequently than before and patient involvement in the decision-making process improved. Possible effects of dehydration and the large variation in symptom-directed treatment during sedation deserve careful attention.
Objective: In Europe, volunteers have an important role in the delivery of palliative care. As part of the EU co-funded Europall project, 4 aspects of volunteering in palliative care were studied for 7 European countries (Belgium, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain). These included (1) involvement of volunteers in palliative care, (2) organization of palliative care volunteering, (3) legal regulations concerning volunteering, and (4) education and training of palliative care volunteering.
Design/Setting/Methods: A literature search combined with an interview study. Information from the scientific literature, and country-specific policy documents were obtained and completed, along with data of consecutive semi-structured interviews with experts in the field of palliative care in the participating countries.
Results: In all countries, volunteers appeared to be involved in palliative care, yet their involvement across health care settings differed per country. England, for example, has the highest number of volunteers whereas Spain has the lowest number. Volunteering is embedded in law and regulations in all participating countries except for England and the Netherlands. In all participating countries, training programs are available and volunteers are organized, both on a national and a regional level.
Conclusion: This study provides a descriptive overview of volunteer work in palliative care in 7 European countries, with a focus on the organizational aspects. Further research should concentrate on the roles and responsibilities of volunteers in the care for the terminally ill in different European health systems.
En Indonésie, la pratique des soins palliatifs n'en est encore qu'à ses débuts, mais une partie de la société indonésienne est favorable au développement des soins palliatifs.
Les soins palliatifs ont été introduits dans le système de santé indonésien en 1989 dans le cadre d'un programme national de contrôle des cancers, mais les services de soins palliatifs ne sont pour l'instant accessibles que dans certaines zones. Il existe toutefois un cadre légal pour encourager leur développement.
L'Indonésie doit développer plus de services, plus de formations aux soins palliatifs, mettre en place des indicateurs de qualité et sensibiliser le public. Il est également nécessaire de mettre en place un mode d'administration des soins qui prenne en compte les spécificités culturelles du pays.
[D'après résumé revue]
Il existe un fossé entre la connaissance des soins palliatifs et leur mise en oeuvre dans la pratique clinique quotidienne, affectant beaucoup de patients dans la population européenne vieillissante. C'est pourquoi a été conçu le projet IMPACT, financé par l'Union européenne, qui vise à développer une implémentation optimale de stratégies pour améliorer l'organisation des soins palliatifs pour les patients déments et cancéreux en Europe. Cet article décrit le projet.