Background: General Practitioners (GPs) are at the first level of contact in many European healthcare systems and they supposedly have a role in supporting cancer patients in achieving their desired place of death. A four-country (Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain) study was carried out exploring current practices.
Patients and methods: EURO SENTI-MELC adopted a retrospective study design and data for this study were collected in 2010 through representative GPs' networks in four countries. In the current study all non-sudden cancer deaths were included with weekly GP registrations.
Results: The main study sample included 930 deceased cancer patients: preference for place of death was known by GPs for only 377. GP awareness on the preferred place of death varied across countries, 27% in Italy, 36% in Spain, 45% in Belgium and 72% in the Netherlands (p<0.01). The general level of preferences met was high, from 68% (Italy) to 92% (Spain).
Conclusions: Despite the importance of being able to die in a preferred location, GPs were often unaware about patient preferences, especially in Italy and Spain. If GPs were informed, the preference was often met in all countries, indicating room for improvement in end-of-life care.
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