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Independents' Day

Better support for GPs over end-of-life care decisions

The King's Fund research has found that doctors would welcome further support on making decisions about dying patients ('GPs 'need support on end of life care'').

Recent research commissioned by the GMC also found that doctors had experienced difficulties in this area and felt the need for further training and ongoing support.

Our forthcoming guidance, End of Life Treatment and Care: Good Practice in Decision-making, will help doctors who are making these decisions, which we recognise can be some of the most difficult of their careers.

The draft guidance recognised, for example, how hard it can be for a doctor to contemplate stopping life-prolonging treatment. It also acknowledged that encouraging patients and doctors to talk more openly about end of life issues can make all the difference in helping the patient avoid going through a troubling end, where their choices have not been made clear to the healthcare team or their loved ones.

These can never be easy discussions. But we hope that, through more detailed and thorough guidance, we can help all doctors who are involved in the care and treatment of patients at the end of their lives.

We already know that doctors are interested in contributing to the guidance that will, eventually, shape their decision-making. During our recent consultation into the draft guidance, we heard from 139 doctors and many more attended the events that will also inform the final version.

The guidance is due to be published in spring 2010 and will also be supported by case studies. In the meantime, if doctors have any questions about specific situations or need further support, they should call the GMC standards team on 020 7189 5404.

From Jane O'Brien, assistant director of standards and fitness to practise, GMC

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