Background: Providing end of life care (EoLC) is an important aspect of primary care, which reduces the risk of hospital admission for most patients. However, general practitioners (GPs) seem to have low confidence in their ability to provide EoLC. Little is known about an adequate volume and kind of training in EoLC among GP trainees.
Methods: We performed a before-after comparison in all post-graduate GP trainees who were registered in the vocational training program (KWBW VerbundweiterbildungPLUS). They were offered participation within a two-day seminar focussing on palliative care in 2017. Those who attended the seminar (intervention group I) completed a paper-based questionnaire directly before the intervention (T1) and 6 months after (T2). None-attendees (group C) were also asked to fill out the questionnaire once. The questionnaire covered previous experiences in palliative care, self-assessment of competencies in EoLC in the organisation of patient care as well as in control of symptoms, attitudes towards death and caring for dying patients and questions about GPs’ role in EoLC.
Results: In total, 294 GP trainees (I: n = 219; C: n = 75) participated in the study. Of those, more than 90% had previously gained experience in EoLC mainly during vocational training in the hospital rotation. Around a third had previously gained competencies in EoLC in medical school. Between groups I (T1) and C no significant differences were observed in socio-demographic characteristics, pre-existing experience or overall expertise. At T2, 75% of participants of group I declared they have extended their competencies in EoLC after the intervention and 70% classified the intervention as helpful or very helpful. Overall, they rated their competencies significantly higher than at T1 (p < 0.01). In detail, competencies in organisation of EoLC and competencies in handling of symptoms significantly improved (p < 0.01). Due to the intervention, 66% could reflect their attitudes towards dying, death and grief and 18% changed their attitudes. Group I highlighted palliative care as one of GPs tasks (Likert 4.47/5, SD 0.75).
Conclusions: The intervention fostered personal competencies, understanding and self-confidence in EoLC among GP trainees. This is crucial for the aim to broadly provide EoLC.
Background: General practitioners’ (GPs) play a central role in facilitating end-of-life discussions with older patients nearing the end-of-life. However, prognostic uncertainty of time to death is one important barrier to initiation of these discussions.
Objective: To explore GPs’ perceptions of the feasibility and acceptability of a risk prediction checklist to identify older patients in their last 12 months of life and describe perceived barriers and facilitators for implementing end-of-life planning.
Methods: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 GPs practising in metropolitan locations in New South Wales and Queensland between May and June 2019. Data were analysed thematically.
Results: Eight themes emerged: accessibility and implementation of the checklist, uncertainty around checklist’s accuracy and usefulness, time of the checklist, checklist as a potential prompt for end-of-life conversations, end-of-life conversations not an easy topic, end-of-life conversation requires time and effort, uncertainty in identifying end-of-life patients and limited community literacy on end-of-life. Most participants welcomed a risk prediction checklist in routine practice if assured of its accuracy in identifying which patients were nearing end-of-life.
Conclusions: Most participating GPs saw the value in risk assessment and end-of-life planning. Many emphasized the need for appropriate support, tools and funding for prognostic screening and end-of-life planning for this to become routine in general practice. Well validated risk prediction tools are needed to increase clinician confidence in identifying risk of death to support end-of-life care planning.
Les causes de rupture du maintien au domicile de personnes en fin de vie sont souvent liées à l’épuisement des proches et au sentiment d’insécurité. L’objectif de cette étude est de connaître les attentes envers le médecin généraliste (MG) de l’aidant principal d’une personne en phase palliative avancée au domicile. Il s’agit d’une étude qualitative sur la base de dix entretiens semi-directifs menés avec un guide d’entretien auprès de proches de personnes décédées. Les enregistrements ont fait l’objet d’une analyse de contenu. Les principales attentes envers le MG concernent sur le plan technique, un ajustement des thérapeutiques ; sur le plan organisationnel, une disponibilité importante ainsi qu’un lien entretenu avec les différents intervenants et les structures notamment de soins palliatifs ; sur le plan relationnel, une écoute et une information sur l’évolution de la maladie ; sur le plan décisionnel, le respect de la volonté du patient. Les résultats sont discutés à partir de trois concepts adaptés au MG, à savoir la capacité d’adaptation de sa pratique et de son savoir-être, l’anticipation des situations d’urgence et de l’évolution de la maladie, et enfin l’assurance d’une continuité des soins qui passe notamment par leur permanence et leur coordination. Les moyens dont dispose le MG paraissent insuffisants pour assurer le maintien à domicile devant la charge que représente un patient en phase palliative avancée. La diffusion de la démarche palliative au domicile et l’optimisation de l’interprofessionnalité auprès des personnes en fin de vie au domicile et de leurs proches sont à développer. L’enjeu est le respect de la demande du patient de mourir à son domicile.
BACKGROUND: Key Information Summaries (KIS) were introduced throughout Scotland in 2013 so that anticipatory care plans written by general practitioners (GPs) could be routinely shared electronically and updated in real time, between GPs and providers of unscheduled and secondary care.
AIMS: We aimed to describe the current reach of anticipatory and palliative care, and to explore GPs' views on using KIS.
METHODS: We studied the primary care records of all patients who died in 2014 in 9 diverse Lothian practices. We identified if anticipatory or palliative care had been started, and if so how many weeks before death and which aspects of care had been documented. We interviewed 10 GPs to understand barriers and facilitating factors.
RESULTS: Overall, 60% of patients were identified for a KIS, a median of 18 }weeks before death. The numbers identified were highest for patients with cancer, with 75% identified compared with 66% of those dying with dementia/frailty and only 41% dying from organ failure. Patients were more likely to die outside hospital if they had a KIS. GPs identified professional, patient and societal challenges in identifying patients for palliative care, especially those with non-cancer diagnoses.
CONCLUSIONS: GPs are identifying patients for anticipatory and palliative care more equitably across the different disease trajectories and earlier in the disease process than they were previously identifying patients specifically for palliative care. However, many patients still lack care planning, particularly those dying with organ failure.
BACKGROUND: Expert consultation supports general practitioners (GPs) in delivering adequate palliative homecare. Insight into consultation practices from a GP's perspective is needed in order to shape consultation services to their wishes and needs.
AIM: To explore palliative care consultation practices from a GP's perspective.
DESIGN AND SETTING: Cross-sectional web-based survey among all GPs (n=235) in the region of Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
METHODS: Our questionnaire contained questions about the delivery of palliative care by GPs, their consultation practices and satisfaction with current services. Questions consisted mainly of 5-point Likert scales. We transformed these scales into numerical values to calculate mean scores. Linear mixed models for repeated measurements were used to study differences in scores.
RESULTS: GPs most often consulted informal caregivers (mean score 3.6) or fellow GPs (mean score 3.3). Physical problems were discussed the most (mean score 3.5), while social and existential issues were discussed least (mean score 1.9 for both). In their choice of a particular consultation service, GPs considered the quality of the provided advice to be the most important factor. GPs were satisfied with current consultation services, with fellow GPs receiving the highest satisfaction scores (mean score 4.6). Finally, when recalling their last palliative patient, most GPs started requesting consultation during this patient's last month of life.
CONCLUSIONS: Next to informal caregivers, GPs preferably seek advice from fellow GPs. Physical issues receive much attention during consultations; however, other vital aspects of palliative care seem to remain relatively neglected, such as social and existential issues and a proactive care approach.
This exploratory study examined general practitioners' (GPs) perspectives on delivering end-of-life care in the New Zealand residential aged care context. A general inductive approach to the data collected from semi-structured interviews with 17 GPs from 15 different New Zealand general practices was taken. Findings examine: (1) GPs' life experience; (2) the GP relationship with the facilities and provision of end-of-life care; (3) the GP interaction with families of dying residents; and (4) GP relationship with hospice. The nature of the GP relationship with the facility influenced GP involvement in end-of-life care in aged care facilities, with GPs not always able to direct a facility's end-of-life care decisions for specific residents. GP participation in end-of-life care was constrained by GP time availability and the costs to the facilities for that time. GPs reported seldom using hospice services for residents, but did use the reputation (cachet) associated with hospice practices to provide an authoritative buffer for their end-of-life clinical decisions when talking with families and residents. GP training in end-of-life care, especially for those with dementia, was reported as ad hoc and done through informal mentoring between GPs.
BACKGROUND: There are no processes that routinely assess end-of-life care in Australian general practice. This study aimed to develop a data collection process which could collect observational data on end-of-life care from Australian general practitioners (GPs) via a questionnaire and clinical data from general practice software.
METHODS: The data collection process was developed based on a modified Delphi study, then pilot tested with GPs through online surveys across three Australian states and data extraction from general practice software, and finally evaluated through participant interviews.
RESULTS: The developed data collection process consisted of three questionnaires: Basic Practice Descriptors (32 items), Clinical Data Query (32 items) and GP-completed Questionnaire (21 items). Data extraction from general practice software was performed for 97 decedents of 10 GPs and gathered data on prescriptions, investigations and referral patterns. Reports on care of 272 decedents were provided by 63 GPs. The GP-completed Questionnaire achieved a satisfactory level of validity and reliability. Our interviews with 23 participating GPs demonstrated the feasibility and acceptability of this data collection process in Australian general practice.
CONCLUSIONS: The data collection process developed and tested in this study is feasible and acceptable for Australian GPs, and comprehensively covers the major components of end-of-life care. Future studies could develop an automated data extraction tool to reduce the time and recall burden for GPs. These findings will help build a nationwide integrated information network for primary end-of-life care in Australia.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) will continue to oppose a change in the law on assisted dying, having conducted a survey of its members.
The decision was ratified by the college’s governing council on 21 February. The RCGP said that 6674 members responded to its survey on assisted dying, a 13.47% response rate.
Of those who responded, 47% (3144) said that the RCGP should oppose a change in the law on assisted dying. A further 40% of respondents (2684) said that the RCGP should support a change in the law on assisted dying provided a regulatory framework and appropriate safeguarding processes are in place, 11% (701) said that the college should have a neutral position, and 2% (145) abstained.
Introduction : Soixante pour cent des personnes atteintes de la maladie d’Alzheimer vivent à domicile. Le maintien à domicile a un impact positif sur l’évolution des troubles du malade. L’aidant naturel en est un acteur indispensable, mais le retentissement sur sa santé est majeur. Le médecin généraliste a un rôle d’évaluation et d’anticipation sur le risque d’épuisement de l’aidant, défini par les pouvoirs publics. Un des outils proposés par la Haute autorité de santé (HAS) est la consultation dédiée au cours du suivi des aidants. L’objectif de l’étude était d’évaluer la place de cette consultation dédiée et son contenu en médecine générale.
Matériel et méthodes : Il s’agissait d’une étude épidémiologique descriptive auprès d’aidants de patients atteints de la maladie d’Alzheimer suivis par des médecins généralistes de la Somme, de mai à juillet 2018.
Résultats : 19 médecins généralistes ont participé, ce qui a permis d’interroger 49 aidants. 6,1 % des aidants naturels ont bénéficié d’une consultation dédiée. La mise en place des aides professionnelles est souvent réalisée. L’évaluation du fardeau de l’aidant et l’orientation de celui-ci vers les structures dédiées sont rarement réalisées.
Discussion : L’exploration des besoins et des difficultés en médecine générale dans l’anticipation du risque d’épuisement de l’aidant est nécessaire. Elle permettrait d’apporter des outils adaptés et d’améliorer la prévention du risque d’épuisement de l’aidant, qui met en péril le maintien à domicile du patient.
Conclusion : Le développement d’une approche préventive des aidants et de l’utilisation des aides dédiées à ceux-ci est primordial pour améliorer la qualité de vie du patient et de son entourage.
Objectif: La loi du 2 février 2016 créant de nouveaux droits en faveur des malades et des personnes en fin de vie demande aux médecins traitants d’informer leurs patients de leur possibilité de rédiger des directives anticipées et de désigner une personne de confiance. Le but de cette étude était de déterminer comment les médecins traitants envisagent la discussion sur la fin de vie avec leurs patients.
Méthode: Il s’agit d’un étude par focus group réalisée auprès de médecins généralistes traitants de Lorraine entre novembre et décembre 2016. Les entretiens ont été enregistrés, retranscrits mot à mot, et une analyse qualitative de contenu triangulée a été réalisée.
Résultats: Trente-deux médecins généralistes répartis en cinq groupes de discussion ont participé. Les médecins souhaitaient que la discussion sur la fin de vie soit initiée par leurs patients, dans les suites d’une médiatisation. La discussion devait permettre une démarche en trois temps : expliquer ses droits au patient, l’accompagner dans sa réflexion, éventuellement avec des confrères spécialistes ou des psychologues, puis l’aider à retranscrire ses volontés. À la demande du patient, la personne de confiance pourrait assister à cette discussion. Un temps dédié de consultation serait souhaitable, mais nécessiterait une éducation de la patientèle à ne venir que pour ce sujet. Certains envisageaient plusieurs consultations, selon les besoins du patient. La durée moyenne de la consultation serait adaptée au patient. Elle était estimée à 30 minutes. Une rémunération appropriée était demandée.
Conclusion: La discussion sur la fin de vie est un processus complexe nécessitant d’être reconnu, notamment via une consultation dédiée et une rémunération adaptée.
BACKGROUND: The best possible care for frail older patients at the end of life can require the integration of geriatric and palliative approaches, possibly with different accentuations at different times. General practitioners (GP) are particularly important in this context: they provide patients with low-threshold primary care close to their homes and provide both general palliative care and geriatric services.
OBJECTIVE: What are the challenges for GPs in caring for frail older patients at the end of their lives?
MATERIAL AND METHODS: A secondary data analysis of 52 qualitative interviews was carried out, which were serially obtained at 4 points in time over a period of 18 months with 14 family doctors. In addition, one focus group with five GPs took place. The analysis was carried out according to the principles of grounded theory.
RESULTS: The results show that GPs see the care of frail older patients at the end of their lives through a) the growing number of older people, b) multimorbidity and complexity of the problem areas, c) the integration of geriatric and palliative approaches, d) the high average age of general practitioners and the lack of junior staff and e) the problem of ensuring care in rural areas as a major challenge. The practical transition between geriatric and palliative care is considered by GPs to be fluid and there is a desire for more integration of both disciplines.
CONCLUSION: In this study GPs perceived a large overlap between geriatric and palliative care. Both approaches should be offered for a selection of patients as a combined service. In the future a systematic network between GPs and geriatricians in practices, clinics, and day clinics will be necessary.
BACKGROUND: End-of-life discussions often are not initiated until close to death, even in the presence of life-limiting illness or frailty. Previous research shows that doctors may not explicitly verbalize approaching end-of-life in the foreseeable future, despite shifting their focus to comfort care. This may limit patients' opportunity to receive information and plan for the future. General Practitioners (GPs) have a key role in caring for increasing numbers of patients approaching end-of-life.
OBJECTIVE: To explore GPs' thought processes when deciding whether to initiate end-of-life discussions.
METHODS: A qualitative approach was used. We purposively recruited 15 GPs or GP trainees from South-East Queensland, Australia, and each participated in a semi-structured interview. Transcripts were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis.
RESULTS: Australian GPs believe they have a responsibility to initiate end-of-life conversations, and identify several triggers to do so. Some also describe caution in raising this sensitive topic, related to patient, family, cultural and personal factors.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings enable the development of approaches to support GPs to initiate end-of-life discussions that are cognizant both of GPs' sense of responsibility for these discussions, and factors that may contribute to caution initiating them, such as anticipated patient response, cultural considerations, societal taboos, family dynamics and personal challenges to doctors.
OBJECTIVES: Advance care planning (ACP) is seldom initiated with people with dementia (PWD) and mainly focuses on medical end-of-life decisions. We studied the effects of an educational intervention for general practitioners (GPs) aimed at initiating and optimizing ACP, with a focus on discussing medical and nonmedical preferences of future care.
DESIGN: A single-blinded cluster randomized controlled trial.
SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: In 2016, 38 Dutch GPs (all from different practices) completed the study. They recruited 140 PWD, aged = }65 years at any stage and with any type of dementia, from their practice.
METHODS: Intervention group GPs were trained in ACP, including shared decision-making and role-playing exercises. Control group GPs provided usual care. The primary outcome was ACP initiation: the proportion of PWD that had at least 1 ACP conversation documented in their medical file. Key secondary outcomes were the number of medical (ie, resuscitation, hospital admission) and nonmedical (ie, activities, social contacts) preferences discussed. At the 6-month follow-up, subjects' medical records were analyzed using random effect logistics and linear models with correction for GP clustering.
RESULTS: 38 GP clusters (19 intervention; 19 control) included 140 PWD (intervention 73; control 67). Four PWD (2.9%) dropped out on the primary and key secondary outcomes. After 6 months, intervention group GPs initiated ACP with 35 PWD (49.3%), and control group GPs initiated ACP with 9 PWD (13.9%) [odds ratio (OR) 1.99; P = .002]. Intervention group GPs discussed 0.8 more medical [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.3, 1.3; P = .003] and 1.5 more nonmedical (95% CI 0.8, 2.3; P < .001) preferences per person with dementia than control group GPs.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Our educational intervention increased ACP initiation, and the number of nonmedical and medical preferences discussed. This intervention has the potential to better align future care of PWD with their preferences but because of the short follow-up, the GPs' long-term adoption remains unknown.
AIM: To describe general practitioners' (GPs) perspectives on end-of-life care of nursing home residents.
METHODS: We carried out a cross-sectional study. A questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 1121 GPs in the German federal states of Bremen and Lower Saxony in 2018. Data were compared between GPs with a qualification in palliative medicine and those without such qualifications, and multivariable logistic regression was performed.
RESULTS: Overall, 375 questionnaires were returned (response rate 34%). The majority of GPs (71%) agreed that nursing home residents are treated too often in hospitals at the end of life, and more than half rated end-of-life care in nursing homes as "rather poor" (54%). For both questions, GPs with a qualification in palliative medicine showed higher agreements. In the multivariable analysis, a prior qualification in palliative medicine was also strongly associated with rating end-of-life care as "rather poor" (OR 1.89, 95% CI 1.10-3.23). Respondents cited higher staffing ratios and better trained nursing staff as the most important measures to improve end-of-life care. Furthermore, it was estimated that just 37% of residents have an advance directive, with only one-third including valid information on end-of-life hospitalizations.
CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that GPs tend to be critical regarding end-of-life care in nursing homes. To improve end-of-life care, better training in palliative care for nursing staff and GPs might be warranted. In addition, advance care planning can help to ensure that residents' wishes are respected.
BACKGROUND: Decisions of withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment are frequent in emergency departments (ED) and patients are often unable to communicate their wishes concerning end of life desires.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the participation of general practitioners (GPs) during the decision-making process of withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatments in ED.
DESIGN: Prospective observational multicenter study.
PATIENTS: We included patients for whom a decision of withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatments was made in ED. For each patient, we enrolled one general practitioner.
MAIN MEASURES: GPs were interviewed about their perception of end of life patient's management and the communication with ED and families.
KEY RESULTS: There were 109 potential patient participants. We obtained answers from 54 (49.5%) of the patient's associated GPs. Only 4 (7.4%) GPs were involved during the decision-making process of withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatments. Among GPs, 29 (53.7%) were contacted by family after the decision, most often to talk about their difficult experience with the decision. A majority (94%) believed their involvements in these decisions were important and 68% wished to "always" participate in end of life decisions despite the fact that they usually don't participate in these decisions. Finally, 66% of GPs believed that management of end of life in the emergency department was a failure and should be anticipated.
CONCLUSIONS: GPs would like to be more involved and barriers to GP involvement need to be overcome. We do not have any outcome data to suggest that routine involvement of GPs in all end of life patients improves their outcomes. Moreover, it requires major system and process-based changes to involve all primary care physicians in ED decision-making.
NIH TRIAL REGISTRY NUMBER: NCT02844972.
INTRODUCTION: Primary care practices are essential settings for Advance Care Planning (ACP) conversations with patients. We hypothesized that such conversations occur more routinely in Advanced Primary Care/Patient Centered Medical Home (APCP/PCMH) Practices using practice transformation strategies.
METHODS: We analyzed characteristics of physician respondents and their practices associated with ACP discussions in older and sicker patients using US data from the 2015 Commonwealth Fund International Survey of Primary Care Physicians in 10 Nations. The primary outcome was how routinely these ACP conversations are reported. We developed an index of APCP/PCMH features as a practice covariable.
RESULTS: Respondents (N = 1001) were predominantly male (60%) and =45 years old (74%). Multivariable analyses showed that suburban practice location was associated with fewer ACP conversations; working in a practice commonly seeing patients with multiple chronic conditions or who have palliative care needs, and working in a practice from which home visits are made, were associated with more ACP conversations. Physicians compensated in part by capitation were more likely to report ACP conversations. No association was found between a single item asking if the practice was an APCP/PCMH and having ACP conversations. However, higher scores on an index of APCP/PCMH features were associated with more ACP conversations.
CONCLUSIONS: In this sample of US primary care physicians, the types of patients seen, practice location, and physician compensation influenced whether physicians routinely discuss ACP with patients who are older and sicker. Practices demonstrating more features of APCP/PCMH models of primary care are also associated with ACP discussions.
Introduction: Patients with advanced cancer often suffer from complex symptoms necessitating constant supervision and management. Primary care/family physicians act as an important bridge between the patients in the community and the specialists in the hospital ensuring continuity of care.
Materials and Methods: The present paper explored the facilitators and challenges in providing home-based palliative care as perceived by the primary care/family physicians (PCP/FP).
Results: 62 physicians reported that they were involved in palliative management of at least one cancer patient in the previous year. A significant number of GPs (34%) lacked confidence in providing this care because of patient complexity, inadequate training and insufficient resources. Other barriers included poor communication from specialists and treating teams. Factors facilitating provision of home-based palliative care included their willingness to help palliative care patients, their inclination to train in palliative care and enthusiasm to refer to guidelines while caring for patients.
Conclusion: It is explicit in the paper that resources with respect to information sharing and communication, technical support and training are essential to empower the PCP/FP in providing community-based palliative care.
BACKGROUND: General Practitioners (GPs) often play an important role in caring for people at the end of life. While some international studies suggest that GPs experience a number of barriers to providing palliative care, little is known about views and experiences of GPs in Australia. This study explored Australian GPs' perceptions of barriers and enablers to the provision of palliative care and provides new insights into how to implement best practice care at the end of life.
METHODS: This was a qualitative study using 25 semi-structured phone interviews conducted with GPs practising in metropolitan and non-metropolitan New South Wales, Australia. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
RESULTS: GPs reported difficulties with palliative care provision due to i) the complex and often emotional nature of doctor-family-interaction; ii) a lack of evidence to guide care; and iii) the need to negotiate roles and responsibilities within the healthcare team. GPs listed a number of strategies to help deal with their workload and to improve communication processes between healthcare providers. These included appropriate scheduling of appointments, locally tailored mentoring and further education, and palliative care guidelines which more clearly outline the roles and responsibilities within multidisciplinary teams. GPs also noted the importance of online platforms to facilitate their communication with patients, their families and other healthcare providers, and to provide centralised access to locally tailored information on palliative care services. GPs suggested that non-government organisations could play an important role by raising awareness of the key role of GPs in palliative care provision and implementing an "official visitor" program, i.e. supporting volunteers to provide peer support or respite to people with palliative care needs and their families.
CONCLUSIONS: This study offers new insights into strategies to overcome well documented barriers to palliative care provision in general practice and help implement optimal care at the end of life. The results suggest that researchers and policy makers should adopt a comprehensive approach to improving the provision of palliative care which tackles the array of barriers and enablers identified in this study.
The discrepancy in the demand for palliative care and distribution of specialist palliative care services will force patients to be eventually cared for by primary care/family physicians in the community. This will necessitate primary care/family physicians to equip themselves with knowledge and skills of primary palliative care. Indian National Health Policy (2017) recommended the creation of continuing education programs as a method to empower primary care/family physicians. With this intention, a taskforce was convened for incorporating primary palliative care into family/primary care practice. The taskforce comprising of National and International faculties from Palliative Care and Family Medicine published a position paper in 2018 and subsequently brainstormed on the competency framework required for empowering primary care/family physicians. The competencies were covered under the following domains: knowledge, skills and attitude, ethical and legal aspects, communication and team work. The competency framework will be presented to the National Board of Examinations recommending to be incorporated in the DNB curriculum for Family Medicine.
BACKGROUND: Early identification of approaching end-of-life and care planning improve outcomes at the end of life. Nevertheless, the majority of people who die are not identified in time to enable appropriate care planning. We aimed to describe the challenges general practitioners (GPs) found in providing end-of-life care; what prompted GPs to identify and discuss approaching end of life with their patient and how their practice changed.
METHODS: We conducted a qualitative study of 15 Australian GPs using semi-structured interviews, examining end-of-life care of one of their randomly selected, deceased patients. Interviews were analysed using a general inductive approach.
RESULTS: When a life-limiting prognosis was articulated, GPs integrated end-of-life care into their clinical care directly. Care often included a care plan developed in consultation with the patient. Even when death was not articulated, GPs were aware of approaching end of life and changed their focus to comfort of the patient. GPs generally had an informal care plan in mind, but this developed gradually and without discussing these plans with the patient. How GPs provided end-of-life care depended primarily on patient traits (eg, willingness to discuss physical decline) and the GP's characteristics (eg, experience, training and consulting style).
CONCLUSIONS: GPs were aware of their patients' approaching end of life and care was adjusted accordingly. However, under certain circumstances this was not explicitly articulated and discussed. It is not clear if implicit but unarticulated end-of-life care is sufficient to meet patients' needs. Future studies should investigate this.