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Community palliative care pilot proves a success

By Nigel Praities

Government plans to more shift palliative care into the community can be done without resulting in large increases in GP workload, a new report concludes.

The Department of Health is keen to allow more people to spend their last few weeks at home, announcing £12 million in funding last year for end-of-life care. But there has been concern that the policy drive would rebound heavily on GPs.

An evaluation by the King's Fund of a programme in Lincolnshire looks set to allay those fears, showing properly supported end-of-life care could triple the numbers of patients dying at home and still reduce GP visits.

The Marie Curie Delivering Choice programme provided community nurses for support at home and a rapid-response teams for emergencies. While healthcare costs stayed the same, practice workload dropped. GP contacts per patient reduced from an average of 4.2 in the last eight weeks of their life, to an average of 2.2.

Dr Duncan Leith, a GP in Northumberland and an adviser for Macmillan Cancer Care, said the report showed end-of-life care needed adequate resources to be effective. ‘Some GPs are anxious that the agenda is to look after them at home because it is cheaper, but it should be about giving patients and their families support that they need at a very difficult time,' he said.

Marie Curie are in discussions with Lord Darzi about adopting the model for end-of-life care in his NHS Next Stage Review.

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