Australian general practice experiences of implementing a structured approach to initiating advance care planning and palliative care: a qualitative study

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BMJ open


OBJECTIVES: Initiation of advance care planning (ACP) and palliative care (PC) assessments in general practice is key to quality end-of-life care. The Advance Project promotes a team-based approach to initiating ACP and PC needs assessment in general practices through training, resources and practical support for implementation from local primary health networks (PHNs). This paper aims to understand: (1) general practice participants' experiences of undertaking Advance Project training and implementing the Advance Project resources in their practices; (2) barriers and facilitators to implementation of Advance Project resources; and (3) PHN staff experiences of supporting general practices through training and practical support for implementation of the Advance Project resources. DESIGN: Qualitative study using semistructured interviews and thematic analysis. SETTING: Twenty-one general practices and four PHNs from three Australian states were recruited between June 2019 and May 2020. PARTICIPANTS: General practitioners (GPs), general practice nurses, practice managers (PMs) and PHN staff. RESULTS: 45 participants comprising 13 GPs, 13 general practice nurses, 9 PMs, 3 allied health staff and 7 PHN staff were interviewed. The general practice participants generally agreed that the Advance Project training/resources led to changes in their own behaviour and increased their awareness of the importance of ACP/PC discussion with their patients. Participants reported the following benefits for patients: increased awareness of ACP; engagement with families/carers and peace of mind. Key facilitators for successful implementation were a team-based approach, the role of the PHN, the role of practice champions, training facilitators' ability to influence peers and facilitate change, and mentoring support. Barriers to implementation included issues related to workplace culture, cost, time/workload, patients and health system. CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that the Advance Project approach facilitated successful implementation of ACP and PC needs assessment into usual care in general practices that encouraged teamwork among GPs and general practice nurses. The ability of the practice to make the best use of practical support and guidance available to them through their local PHN both before and during implementation was a key factor in integration of Advance Project resources into routine practice.

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