Background: The need for palliative care is growing internationally with an increasing prevalence of non-malignant diseases. The integrated care pathway was implemented in primary care by multidisciplinary teams from 2009 in a locality in the North East of England. Fourteen general practitioner practices provided data for the study.
Aim: To find whether, how, and under what circumstances palliative care registrations are made for patients with non-malignant diseases in primary care.
Design: General practitioner practice data were analysed statistically and qualitative data were collected from health care professionals and members of relevant organisations.
Findings: A mixed-effects logistic model indicated a significant difference beyond the 0.1% level (p < 0.001) in registrations between the malignant and non-malignant groups in 2011, with an odds ratio of 0.09 (=exp(-2.4266)), indicating that patients in the non-malignant group are around 11 times (1/0.09) less likely to be registered than patients in the malignant group. However, patients with non-malignant diseases were significantly more likely to be registered in 2012 than in 2011 with an odds ratio of 1.46, significant beyond the 1% level. Qualitative analyses indicate that health care professionals find registering patients with non-malignant diseases stressful, yet feel that their confidence in treating this population is increasing.
Conclusion: The integrated care pathway began to enable the reduction in inequalities in care by identifying, registering and managing an increasing number of palliative patients with non-malignant diseases. Consensual and inclusive definitions of palliative care were developed in order to legitimise the registration of such patients.
Keywords: Palliative care; cancer; malignant; non-cancer; non-malignant; realist evaluation.
© The Author(s) 2016.