In the aftermath of the Gosport War Memorial Hospital scandal, GPs will be in a position of greater responsibility for managing care at the end of life, an editorial in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) says. The authors, from the University of Bristol, say GPs require urgent training to address public anxiety and prevent a potential negative impact on end-of-life care provided in the community.
The Report of the Gosport Independent Panel, published last month, concluded that there had been “a disregard for human life and a culture of shortening the lives”. It estimated that the lives of a possible 650 people were shortened as a direct result of the pattern of prescribing and administering opioids that had become the norm at the hospital.
The doctor at the centre of the inquiry, Dr Jane Barton, was a GP working as a part-time clinical assistant at the hospital between 1988 and 2000. In January 2010 - 10 years after it was first made aware of concerns regarding her practice - the General Medical Council found Dr Barton guilty of serious professional misconduct but she was not removed from the medical register. She retired soon after.
The BJGP editorial says the scandal has, once again, created concern within the profession and among the general public about the use of pain relieving medication as part of compassionate end-of-life care.
To counteract the negative impact on community-delivered palliative care services, the authors say good relationships with specialist palliative care services and appropriate guidance will be required, along with efforts to bolster the confidence of GPs in delivering end-of-life care which, they suggest, has been “shaken by the Gosport report”.