GPs want more training in care of dying


(A report by

The average GP practice cares for up to 20 dying patients every year and this figure is expected to double over the next two decades due to an ageing population, the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) has said.

It made its comments following the launch of a major new report, which aims to enhance the way in which GPs care for people dying in the community.

The report, Primary Palliative Care in Ireland – Identifying Improvements in Primary Care to Support the Care of Those in Their Last Year of Life, was compiled by the ICGP, the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Last year, these three organisations established the Primary Palliative Care Programme in an attempt to identify different ways that GPs could support the management of people who were expected to die within a year. The findings of that programme’s research are contained in this new report.

It showed that most people working in the area of primary care would like more training in palliative care, including symptom control and caring for patients who are just days or hours away from dying.

The report contained a number of initiatives, which the Primary Palliative Care Programme aims to pursue over the next 12 months, including the development of a system which identifies and responds to patients in need of palliative care in the community.

It also recommended a number of other things that need to be done in the longer term, such as more psychological support for patients and their families and more timely access to specialised equipment.

“Research has found that 80% of people with end stage disease in Ireland want to die at home. To facilitate this, there is a great need to improve the generalist palliative care that is available in the community,” commented Dr Paul Gregan, chairperson of the Primary Palliative Care National Steering Group.

He insisted that implementing the initiative in this report will ‘help to keep more patients with life-limiting disease in the community as their health deteriorates’.

Meanwhile launching the report, consultant cardiologist, Dr Brian Maurer, acknowledged that caring for a patient at the end of their life ‘is one of the most challenging experiences for a healthcare professional’.

“The initiatives we are launching today will help GPs, nurses and other healthcare professionals to respond sensitively and confidently to the needs of our most vulnerable patients when they need us most,” he added