How early identification can lead to improved advance care planning for people with terminal illnesses

This year’s Annual Marie Curie Research Conference, held jointly with the Royal Society of Medicine, will focus on palliative care in the community – making a difference in practice.

Lucy Pocock, Academic Clinical Fellow, University of Bristol

Lucy Pocock, Academic Clinical Fellow at the University of Bristol, will be discussing her research at the conference. Here Lucy gives a quick overview about why her work is crucial in bringing benefits to patients at the end of the lives as well as to families and carers.

What is the research you’re presenting about?

This small, qualitative study explored the process of identifying patients at the end of life by GPs.

Why did we need to investigate this area?

Identification of patients at the end of life is the first step in the care planning pathway. Many general practices have palliative care registers to collate these patients’ details and they are largely comprised of patients with cancer. There is little information about how the registers are populated by GPs and other healthcare professionals.

How will the findings help people with a terminal illness or their families?

This study contributes to a growing body of work on the identification and care of people with non-malignant, life-limiting illness. It is hoped that earlier identification of these people will facilitate the process of advance care planning.

How long has the research taken/will it take?

The research project was started in 2010 and the final report was completed in 2013.

Who did we talk to (and how many people) and what did we ask them?

Twelve GPs in the south-west were interviewed. Topics included:

  • thoughts/beliefs on death and dying

  • experience of end-of-life care

  • experiences of identifying patients at the end of life

  • views on training in the identification of end of life patients

What more do we still need to learn about this topic?

  1. How can we help primary care (eg GPs) and secondary care (eg hospital doctors) to work more closely to improve prognostication and advance care planning?

  2. How can we understand better the subjective judgements that GPs make about patients and their prognosis?

  3. Would the inclusion of formal teaching in discussing end of life issues and advance care planning, as part of doctors’ training, improve care for patients?

The conference will take place on 28 March 2014 in London and will be attended by Marie Curie staff, healthcare professionals, academics and others with an interest in palliative care research. Visit the Marie Curie website for more information and to view the programme. For conference updates on twitter follow the hashtag #communitypallcare.