Objectives: General practitioners (GPs) are well placed to be involved in end-of-life care for patients with life-limiting illnesses. However, differing views exist regarding their role. This study aims to explore the views of GPs and specialist palliative care clinicians (SPCCs) on the role that GPs should play in the planning and provision of end-of-life care and important barriers and facilitators to GPs' involvement in end-of-life care including suggestions for improvement.
Methods: Qualitative description methodology using semistructured interviews of 11 GPs and 10 SPCCs.
Results: The participants identified two key roles that GPs should play in the planning and provision of end-of-life care: care planning and referring to palliative care services and being the primary clinician in charge of patient care. GPs and SPCCs expressed similar views; however, a significant proportion of the GP participants were not actively involved in end-of-life care. Factors affecting GPs' involvement in end-of-life care included: (1) GP and practice factors including continuity of care, long-term relationships with patients, knowledge and skills in end-of-life care, resource limitations and work patterns; (2) communication and collaboration between GPs and the acute healthcare system and (3) communication and collaboration between GPs and SPCCs.
Conclusion: GPs have a key role in the planning and provision of end-of-life care. GPs could be encouraged in this role by providing them with education and practical experience in end-of-life care, making changes to remuneration structure, formalised arrangements for shared care and encouraging continuity of care and developing long-term relationship with their patients.