Objectives: To explore general practitioners' (GPs) current involvement in and attitudes towards the provision of palliative care in primary care.
Methods: Postal survey of 356 London-based GPs, assessing attitudes towards palliative care provision, district nursing and specialist palliative care services, and priorities for future service development.
Results: Currently, 65% of GPs were providing palliative care to patients on their list; 72% agreed or strongly agreed palliative care was a central part of their role; and 27% wanted to hand care over to specialists. Most GPs (66%) disagreed with the statement that 'palliative care is mainly district nursing (DN) work'. Many were unaware of out-of-hours DN and specialist palliative care services. Multi-variable analysis found four GP characteristics--larger practice size, more years experience as a GP, receipt of palliative care education, and current provision of palliative care--were associated with agreement that palliative care was central to a GP's role.
Conclusion: A minority of NHS GPs in London would rather have no involvement in palliative care in primary care. Knowledge of current services for palliative care is generally poor among GPs. These findings highlight potential gaps in services, particularly in small practices. Specialists will need to consider these factors in working with GPs to develop primary palliative care and to enable greater access to specialist palliative care.