End-of-life planning with frail patients attending general practice

Dunphy, E. J. et al.  End-of-life planning with frail patients attending general practice: an exploratory prospective cross-sectional study  British Journal of General Practice. 2016 e661-e666

Background: End-of-life planning means decision making with patients, formulating and recording decisions regarding their end-of-life care. Although clearly linked with benefits including improved quality of life, reduced hospital admissions, and less aggressive medical care, it is still infrequently undertaken and is regarded as challenging by healthcare professionals.

Aim: To ascertain the feasibility of improving the identification of patients at high risk of dying in general practice and the acceptability of providing patients identified with an end-of-life planning tool.

Design and setting: Exploratory prospective cross-sectional study in four general practices.

Method:  Patients at high risk of dying were identified during routine consulting by their GP, using the Supportive and Palliative Care Indicators Tool (SPICT). Patients identified were invited to participate, and provided with Think Ahead — an end-of-life planning tool, which has been used previously in general practice. Participants completed telephone surveys, assessing their response to Think Ahead, and the acceptability of the GP raising end-of-life issues during routine consulting.

Results:  Provision of Think Ahead to a purposive sample of preterminal patients identified by GPs was feasible, acceptable to most patients, and somewhat effective in increasing discussion among families and in practice on end-of-life planning.

Conclusion:  The SPICT and Think Ahead tools were mostly acceptable, effective, and enabling of discussions on end-of-life care in general practice.

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