Background. Continuity of end-of-life care for patients receiving palliative care is an important challenge for out-of-hours services in general practice.
Aim. To investigate how frequent information is transferred on patients receiving palliative care from GPs to the out-of-hours services, to explore the perceptions of GP's on this information transfer and to study the relation between information transfer and the used GP information systems.
Methods.This is a mixed-method design study. The frequency of information transfer to the out-of-hours services was investigated by analyzing a regional out-of-hours database. Barriers and promoting factors for this transfer of information were investigated by using semi-structured interviews among a purposive sample of GPs from the same region. The relation between information transfer and the GP information system was investigated by a postal questionnaire in a national random selection of GPs.
Results. When a palliative patient contacted the out-of-hours service, for 20% of these patients, a transfer of information was available and only half of these transfers included an anticipating end-of-life plan. All interviewed GPs considered continuity of care for these patients as important. However, some doubted whether a transfer of information is relevant for the quality of care. There was no relation between the information transfer and the used GP information systems.
Conclusion. For only a minority of patients receiving palliative care, a transfer of information including an anticipating management plan was present. There is a large variation in the opinions of GPs on how to organize continuity of end-of-life care.