'Simple' project boosts GPs' confidence
Professor Lakhani, who is also a practising GP, was speaking on the You and Yours programme at lunchtime today (Monday 7th March).
He was appearing on the programme in order to respond to a survey by Help the Hospices that found one in four GPs are are not confident about their ability to provide information to a patient who has less than six months to live.
The survey of 400 healthcare workers, of whom 200 were GPs, also revealed that 25% of GPs were not aware of the services their local hospices had to offer; and 25% did not know hospice care could be given at home.
Also appearing was Dr Ros Taylor, a trustee of Help the Hospices and Director of The Hospice of St Francis.
Dr Taylor said: "Many [GPs] thought that hospices only support cancer patients and only support pain, so it felt to Help the Hospices that perhaps there was a huge education initiative needed. GPs are pivotal in good end of life care."
Professor Lakhani said that he thought the study was 'useful' because it highlighted the important role of GPs.
He continued: "We know from research that GPs regard their own role as being core to end of life care, and that patients like to go to GPs for information about end of life care."
But he added that some doctors do find it difficult to let someone know that they are dying, which is why the Dying Matters Coaltion launched the End of Life GP project. The project showed that with limited intervention it is possible to transform the confidence of GPs in talking about dying, and consequently measurably improve end of life care.
Professor Lakhani said: "The results of this project were very impressive. We worked with 59 GPs from a range of practices. We spent just an afternoon with them talking about refresher training in breaking bad news and initiating conversations about end of life care, and equipping them with leaflets about Dying Matters.
"We found that as a result of this study and interventions, the GPs' confidence increased massively; for example, they were putting more people on register; they were discussing decisions around resusitation. Just a very simple training programme can boost GPs' confidence.
"I must say, I'm not as negative about the future as this survey suggests because I think GPs are in a strong position as commissioners to plan better care for end of life."
Listen to the full interview at BBC Radio 4. (click on the link for March 7 on the right-hand-side column. The debate begins at around 41 minutes)