General practitioner (GP) Bregje Thoonsen has won the Telesphorus award for her thesis: ‘Early proactive palliative care in general practice – identification, communication and structured planning’, which she successfully defended in September 2016. This price is awarded every second year by the Geert Bremer Foundation (Geert Bremer stichting) to a practising GP. The thesis needs to be of ‘exceptional importance and merit’.
Thoonsen performed her research at the department of Anesthesiology, Pain and Palliative medicine the Radboudumc, with Kris Vissers and Chris van Weel as supervisors, and Yvonne Engels and Marieke Groot as co-supervisors. The thesis describes the results of her study about timely identification of palliative patients in general practice, and proactive palliative care planning In summary: GPs who were trained in identifying their palliative patients and in proactive palliative care provided palliative care to a larger number of patients than untrained GPs. Moreover, they more often make a multidimensional problem and needs inventory with their palliative patients. Those patients that had received timely palliative care of their GPs had less hospitalizations in their final months of life, more often died at home (which mostly is the preferred place of death), and less in the hospital. These findings are in line with other palliative care research. However, a large part of the patients are not timely ‘identified’ by their GP as ‘palliative’ patients, and thus don’t receive palliative care. Training in palliative care and in how to start a discussion with the patient about the future should be widely implemented. Moreover, the medical specialist should regularly exchange information about the patient and what has been or needs to be discussed, and divide tasks and responsibilities.
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