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King’s Fund End of Life Care Poll November 2009

ComRes surveyed 501 GPs in England and Wales on behalf of King's Fund.

Date Published: 19 Nov 2009

Categories: Health | Professionals | Public Sector | Social | UK




For embargoed release: 00:01 Thursday 19th November

Family doctors would welcome more support in helping them talk to patients about death and dying. A survey by The King’s Fund found that
3 out of 4 GPs agree that as professionals they have an integral role in end of life care and that they should be actively encouraging patients to plan for how they want to be cared for when they die. But at the same time almost half (48%) said they would value some support to help them deal with patients who are at the end of their lives.

There is widespread agreement the NHS will only deliver better care if patients are able to talk openly to their doctors and to their families about the kind of care and treatment they want. 

But the survey revealed that more than two thirds of GPs (68%) have not discussed the type of care they themselves would like at the end of their lives with their own doctor, family or friends - a similar result to those found in surveys of the general public.

The survey of 501 GPs found that:

 only 5% of GPs have written a living will or advance care plan making their wishes about end of life care clear;
 less than half (42%) have told relatives whether or not they want to be organ donors;
 less than a quarter (23%) have discussed their funeral plans.

The Fund’s Chief Executive Niall Dickson said:

‘Death and dying remain one of the last taboos. The fact that GPs themselves struggle with this issue shows how much further we have to go in tackling this topic. That means changing public attitudes and giving professionals more support in handling what can seem a daunting and sensitive area. The good news is that GPs tell us they would welcome that support.

‘Too many people are not receiving the care they want and need at the end of their lives - part of that has to do with our collective failure to discuss these matters openly beforehand, when the pressure on everyone is much less.’ 

This research will be discussed today at a national summit on end of life care at Leeds Castle in Kent which has been organised by The King’s Fund today. It is bringing together policy makers, clinicians and carers to identify ways to implement the end of life care strategy in England.

The King’s Fund will publish a report and action plan from the National Summit in December.


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