Background: To maintain patients' quality of life is one of the major goals in palliative home care provided by general practitioners (GPs). GPs need adequate training to care for palliative patients. The paper seeks to evaluate whether a specific training in Germany (PAMINO) has any improving impact on the care of palliative patients and their health-related quality of life.
Methods: From September 2007 until June 2009, GPs and their palliative care patients with cancer participated in a study to evaluate palliative courses for GPs offered by a regional palliative care initiative (PAMINO). For a period of six months at most or until death, patients were asked monthly to judge their quality of life on the Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 15 Palliative (QLQ-C15-PAL) of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and on the Palliative Care Outcome Scale (POS). The 'Overall quality of life' scale of the QLQ-C15-PAL takes values between 0 and 100 with higher values indicating a higher quality of life. The POS sum scale takes values between 0 and 40 with higher values indicating worse care outcomes. Patients cared for by PAMINO-trained GPs and patients cared for by other GPs (control group) are compared using t-tests for differences in group means.
Results: One hundred patients participated in the study; 96 patients filled out the questionnaires at least once. On the QLQ-C15-PAL, mean quality of life of the patient groups of PAMINO-trained and other GPs were 37.7 (SD = 25.5) and 39.4 (SD = 26.3) (p = .76), respectively. On the POS, respective mean values of 13.6 (SD = 5.8) and 12.0 (SD = 6.5) (p = .26) were given. Patients cared for by a PAMINO-trained GP did not report better quality of life and care outcomes than patients cared for by other general practitioners.
Conclusions: Patients cared for by PAMINO-trained and other GPs in our study did not report differences in quality of life. Quality of life and care outcomes of all patients were better than of palliative patients in institutional or specialized care, emphasizing the ability of GPs to provide adequate care for these vulnerable patients. However, conclusions need to be drawn cautiously since the study had a small sample size.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN78021852.