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Palliative care shortfalls

An England-wide survey has exposed significant shortfalls in palliative care for patients with heart failure.

More than one in 10 specialist palliative care services did not accept heart failure patients and those that did were typically only taking very small numbers of patients.

The researchers said palliative care services were overly focused on cancer and GPs did not always recognise the need for end-of-life care in these patients.

Dr Simon Gibbs, a researcher on the study and clinical senior lecturer at Imperial College London, said: 'GPs should be implementing the gold standards framework for the last six months of life.

'The problem with heart failure is these people live with significant disability for much longer than patients with cancer but doctors and their families fail to notice the need for palliative care.'

Dr Gibbs's survey found 11 per cent of the 233 palliative care services responding did not accept heart failure patients, most commonly because of a lack of resources or beds.

The survey, conducted in September 2004, was published in September's Palliative Medicine.

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