Caring for persons at the end of life (palliative care) is a great challenge for everyone involved. This project examines palliative care from the perspective of general practitioners (primary care physicians) and family members of patients who have died. The goal is improvement of the quality of care at the end of life.

Lay summary

The majority of people die after a long illness not of cancer but of heart, lung or kidney diseases and chronic illnesses of the nervous system. General practitioners often play a central role in the care of persons at the end of life, as they have known the patients and their families for years. The physicians are expected to possess high competency in the area of palliative care. This goes far beyond treating symptoms of illness at the end of life. The tasks of palliative care include communicating appropriately in these situations, ensuring the patients and their families the necessary emotional support, aiding in decision-making and coordinating the different health services involved.

General practitioners and family members of deceased patients in all three language regions of Switzerland will be surveyed through interviews and questionnaires. The aim is to gather information mainly on the quality of care of persons at the end of life. Special attention will be paid to the education and continuing education of future general practitioners and the quality of care structures up to now. The results of the study will contribute towards the drafting of specific suggestions for improving palliative care of persons at the end of life.

This study aims to identify gaps in care and especially general practitioners’ care of persons at the end of life and to draft suggestions for improvement. The study will contribute towards improving palliative care in Switzerland.