Dr Lucy Selman, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol
As I write this, the UK government has just announced that 13,729 people have died in hospitals from COVID-19. Care England estimates more than 1,400 people have now died in care homes. As you read this, those appalling figures will have grown. The national medical director, Stephen Powis, has said that if the UK death tally comes in below 20,000, “we will have done very well”.
As a result, a wave of grief will swell in the coming months, with more and more people experiencing a close bereavement related to COVID-19. The disease brings new challenges in caring for patients and supporting their family and friends. A particularly cruel one is that patients must be isolated to control the spread of infection.
Since a patient’s loved ones are often unable to accompany … Read more
By Dr Lucy Pocock, GP Career Progression Fellow, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol
Dealing with death is part of the job description for all doctors. For those working in general practice, this often means planning ahead, with GPs encouraged to keep a register of patients thought to be in the last year of their life.
One reason for this is to identify which patients might benefit from palliative and supportive care – the kind of care which focuses on symptom control, rather than cure. At the moment, these registers appear to consist mainly of patients with cancer. Yet most people (72%) in England don’t actually die of cancer. So why aren’t other dying patients being registered?
To answer this question, it is helpful to think about how we die. As a GP, I can often predict, to some degree, a decline … Read more
Dr Paul Teed
Centre for Academic Primary Care
University of Bristol
Assisted dying can be a divisive and polarising subject. But there is one aspect on which most people probably agree – the need to improve the conversations people have about death.
At the moment, there is uncertainty in the UK regarding what people – especially health professionals – can and cannot say when the topic of assisted dying comes up. Conversation can become especially stilted when it turns to patients obtaining the medical documentation required for an assisted death abroad.
The situation requires clarification. Currently, if a doctor in the UK writes a specific report to help with an assisted death abroad (three organisations in Switzerland accept UK citizens), the General Medical Council (GMC) may view this as a “fitness to practice” issue.
However, if a doctor provides copies of medical records, even with the … Read more