General practitioners have always been involved in providing
palliative care. As Australia’s population ages, the number of patients
living with cancer and end stage chronic disease will increase.
This article looks at existing barriers to, and community expectations
of, GP involvement in the provision of palliative care. It presents the
CareSearch project as one initiative aimed at building GPs’ awareness
and skills in palliative care.
Palliative care is traditionally viewed as being the intense care of a
patient who is close to death. In recent years, the scope of palliative
care has expanded to include patients who may live for many
years with end stage organ failure or cancer. Care of these patients
in the community inevitably involves input from the GP. Barriers to
GPs’ participation in palliative care include knowledge barriers and
structural factors. Some GPs feel unprepared to deal with what they see
as the complex clinical and psychosocial aspects of palliative care. A
number of initiatives have been developed to build the awareness and
skills of GPs in palliative care. The GP section of the CareSearch website
has been specifically developed to provide knowledge, skills and
practical advice for GPs who provide palliative care in the community.
General practitioners play an essential role in providing palliative care and many find the area satisfying and rewarding. However, some avoid it because they believe palliative care involves stressful consultations, frequent home visits and managing difficult symptoms. Some GPs are unfamiliar with what they see as the complex clinical and psychosocial aspects of palliative care and feel unprepared to deal with them.1,2
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