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Shift more resources to primary care to support end of life provision, says report

by Jess Hacker
12 April 2021

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Resources must be directed to primary care services to support their ‘essential, but often overlooked’ role in the provision of end of life care, a report has said.

The report, published last week (8 April) by the Better End of Life programme, aimed to explore the ongoing role of primary care services in palliative and end of life care, focusing on care provided during the pandemic.

It concluded that primary care services ‘need to be recognised’ as increasingly important providers of palliative care.

‘Primary care teams of general practitioners and community nurses, working alongside colleagues in care homes and in social care, have been at the forefront of community palliative and end of life care provision, supported by specialist palliative care team, the report said.’ It added: ‘Resources must be directed to support the essential, but often overlooked, role of primary care services in end of life care provision.’

The programme – a collaboration between Marie Curie, University of Cambridge, King’s College London, Hull York Medical School and the University of Hull – is examining the current state of dying, death and bereavement across all four UK nations.

Its first research report also noted that primary care teams and specialist care teams have ‘rapidly adapted to meet the increased need for palliative and end of life care’ during the pandemic.

GPs more involved in advance care planning

The review considered evidence from several studies into end of life care conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic and made several recommended policies to address weaknesses in that care.

It noted, however, that ‘much more research is needed’ to understand primary care’s role in providing palliative care.

A University of Sheffield study of 554 GPs, which informed the report, found that more than half (58%) of GPs and community nurses said they had provided ‘a lot more’ or ‘a bit more’ end of life care than usual during the pandemic. GPs reported that this required more involvement in advance care planning.

Dr Stephen Barclay, a co-researcher on the review and a GP and consultant in palliative care from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘General practitioners, community nurses and care home staff have all been at the frontline of end of life care during the pandemic.

‘There is a pressing need for their central role in caring for people at the end of their lives to be recognised, supported and adequately resourced.’