Continuity within primary palliative care: an audit of general practice out-of-hours co-operatives

Jenni Burt, Stephen Barclay, Nigel Marshall, Cathy Shipman, Amanda Stimson, Jason Young
Journal of Public Health 2004, 26 (3): 275-6

BACKGROUND: The transfer of information between general practitioners (GPs) and their out-of-hours providers on vulnerable patient groups is essential to ensure continuity of care. This will be critical when, in 2006, NHS Direct will triage and route all out-of-hours calls. This study investigates the current use of information handover systems for palliative care patients within four out-of-hours co-operatives.

METHODS: Paper records of all 13,460 contacts during August 2002 were scrutinized. Using a standardized data extraction form we recorded details on all palliative or terminal contacts, and the existence of information handover.

RESULTS: Across the four co-operatives, 2.1 per cent of all calls were from palliative care patients; co-operatives held handover information for between one (1.2 per cent) and 13 (32.5 per cent) of these patients.

CONCLUSION: The systems in place to alert these co-operatives to the needs of palliative care patients are currently under-utilized. As services move towards an integrated approach, scrutiny of information transfer systems and encouragement of GPs and district nurses to update information, may help to ensure better continuity of care

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