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GPs told to ask dying patients about their religious beliefs

A new NICE quality standard recommends that GPs should discuss religious and spiritual concerns with patients in the last few days of life.

The quality standard covers the clinical care of adults in the last two or three days of life.

As part of developing an individualised care plan, NICE recommends that doctors and nurses discuss any cultural, social or religious preferences with patients.

The quality standard also recommends that GPs should prescribe anticipatory medicines that the patient might need to control their symptoms (for example if they might have difficulty swallowing provide injections rather than tablets), appropriate to their individual needs.

It also states that hydration needs should be assessed daily and doctors and nurses should discuss the risks and benefits of hydration options with the person who is dying. The guidance also states that those who have symptoms suggesting they are in the last few days of life should be further monitored for changes in symptoms to see if they are stabilising, recovering or getting worse.

Professor Sam Ahmedzai, emeritus professor of palliative medicine and specialist member of the NICE quality standard committee said: ‘Control of pain and other distressing symptoms is very important for dying people, but good end of life care goes far beyond that.

‘It includes asking about the dying person’s spiritual, cultural, religious and social preferences. Only by attending to these issues and concerns can we deliver truly individualised care for each person and those important to them.’

Readers' comments (9)

  • "cultural, social or religious preferences"

    Examples would be helpful, I'm not really clear what is being referred to here.

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  • Cobblers


    There are admirably qualified persons who do this. They are called Priests, Vicars, Padres, Imams, Dawkins whoever. NOT a GP.

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  • FFS GPs ideally place again quick fast bleep the vicar etc.

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    I would love to discuss religion but this is a tricky area if the patient finds it offensive .. and previously the GMC has really gone to task against doctors in relation to similar.. Usually if the patient is of the same religion and you are reinforcing what you both believe in anyway then there is not a problem .. but if the view point is ... not much time now .. come to the right path .. then even with clear logic and proofs then very tricky grounds.. Asking if they want religious support .. with a view of getting them that support ... should be ok.. What happened when the religious folk ask for bequeathed donations ??

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  • Ivan Benett

    Gosh what negativity and an inaccurate headline. The statement is as follows

    Statement 2 Adults in the last days of life, and the people important to them, are given opportunities to discuss, develop and review an individualised care plan.

    It doesn't instruct GP to discuss religious issues, as the headline suggests, and there are other people who will do this. Personally I have found those who are able to discuss faith issues have a better death AND so do the family. It's doesn't have to be us that does it.
    Please Pulse don't excite your readers any more than is necessary. NICE is very careful with its wording so use their words to convey the actual meaning

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  • It seems quite sensible really - we do this already. What might not be sensible is if it is turned into a box box exercise...

    We should be careful not to confuse spiritual wellbeing with religion - yes for some folk religion is part of their spiritual concern, but for many it is about their identity, purpose and a feeling of being at one with the world.

    GP's listen to patients social, cultural and spiritual concerns all the time. These are a core part of a patient's identity and are also core to an individual experience of death. Palliative care doctors refer to pain being physical, psychological, social and spiritual. Exploring and addressing pain beyond the physical can actually improve a patients experience of death.

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  • Ivan Benett

    terryh - well said

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  • Was it not that in recent past a GP was pulled up for sharing or exploring religious beliefs? While the Article may by misleading as to the intent of those setting out advice, religion is an inflammable issue and while most patients even atheist start thinking of after life, some may still find it encroaching. Needs an individual approach and intuition to know with whom you could encourage a discussion.

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  • David Banner

    Thank God I'm an atheist.

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