GMC calls for better training for doctors on caring for people at the end of life

Categories: Education.

Speaking at the National Council for Palliative Care’s Dying Matters debate last week, the GMC’s chief executive, Niall Dickson, argued that more needed to be done to prepare medical students and newly qualified doctors to equip them to provide palliative care.

A 2014 GMC report ‘Be prepared: are new doctors safe to practice?‘ showed that while many felt well-prepared for aspects such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), they were less confident about other end of life issues, such as what to do if their patient was not improving, changing a consultant’s management plan, and their own emotional response.

The concerns were underlined in a small survey of medical students, conducted by the GMC in advance of the Dying Matters debate, which found that nearly half (46%) of those responding had received no end of life care training or advice before they first had contact with a dying patient.

Of those who admitted to worries about caring for dying patients, common concerns included making clinical and best treatment decisions, dealing with a patient’s family, and getting emotional themselves.

In his speech, Dickson highlighted a number of initiatives which were helping to better prepare doctors for caring for those at the end of life, including partnership working between universities and hospices.

Indeed, palliative care placements in hospices were among the initiatives that medical students reported as finding most helpful.

Dickson said: “Providing person-centred, compassionate care for dying patients remains a challenge for our healthcare systems, and it is especially hard for doctors at the start of their careers. We need to do more to give them the knowledge and skills to cope and do well in what will always be a challenging area of medical practice.

“Educating healthcare professionals has a key role to play in addressing this national priority. From our vantage point we see many good examples where doctors are given the training and support they need from the start of their careers in medicine.

“We want to see that good practice adopted more widely, and we look forward to working with medical schools and postgraduate training bodies to take this forward.”

The GMC is working in partnership, with organisations including the National Council for Palliative Care and the Gold Standards Framework, to produce training packages and other resources to support doctors caring for dying patients, at all stages of their career.

Details of these resources can be found on the GMC website, along with the full text of Niall Dickson’s speech at last week’s Dying Matters debate. 

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