Palliative care makes the most difference for patients

Palliative care for non-malignant disease makes the biggest difference to patients, according to an international poll by the BMJ.

In all 1,549 of over 4,000 people questioned valued palliative care beyond cancer over tackling drug-resistant infections in poor countries, better care for elderly patients with multiple conditions, tackling excessive drinking in females or improving chronic pain management.

GPs keep a register of all patients who need palliative care under the quality framework and hold regular multidisciplinary meetings to discuss these patients. Currently, GPs are rewarded six quality points for this service.

Professor Scott Murray, an expert in palliative care from Edinburgh University who championed the cause for the contest, told GP: 'Only 25 per cent of people die of cancer nowadays, so 75 per cent don't have access to specialist palliative care such as hospices.'

GPs are providing palliative care to patients with end stage COPD and heart failure, he said. He recommended that GPs followed the Gold Standards Framework as a guideline.

'Over half of practices in the UK are using it to structure palliative care. It was originally set up for cancer care but it now can be used for other conditions,' Professor Murray said.

'Palliative care is about planning ahead and thinking multi-dimensionally.'

Part of this should be ensuring those who may need emergency care out of hours are prescribed medication they may need in advance, he said.

GPs often struggle to obtain controlled drugs for terminally ill patients in emergencies, claims Bedfordshire GP Dr John Lockley, writing in this week's issue of GP.

Accessing these drugs out of hours, is difficult and can leave patients in pain in their last hours, he said.

Gold Standards Framework


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