GPs ask patients to have early conversations about illness and end of life wishes

Having conversations about what you would like to happen if you become seriously ill or at the end of your life is not easy, but GPs, consultants, community and specialist nurses across Herefordshire are encouraging people to do just that with the help of a new process called ReSPECT.

Next week is ‘Dying Matters Week’ across the UK, and it is an opportunity to place the importance of talking about dying, death and bereavement firmly on the national agenda.

It takes place from 13th to the 19th of May and the theme is Are We Ready?

Our British culture has always influenced our reluctance to start conversations about the subject of death and dying. It’s not only relatives and friends who might find it difficult to talk about death. The dying themselves often find it very hard to express what they are feeling or what they would like at the end of their life.

It is inevitable that we will all experience death at some point, and as difficult as that may be to acknowledge, it’s at this time our families, friends and healthcare professionals need to know what we want.

Dr Crispin Fisher, a GP at The Marches Surgery in Leominster, said “I encourage everyone to consider and discuss what they would like to happen to them at the end of their life, at a point in time when these wishes can be properly discussed and expressed.

“Having these conversations early, with family and friends can make future decisions about your care easier.

“One of the ways to help with this is to talk to your health care professional about a new initiative and form called ReSPECT(Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Treatment and Care) which will be launched in our county during Dying Matters Week.”

Central to completing the ReSPECT process is a two-sided form, which allows your health care professionals to record a summary of discussions with you, their patient, about how you want to be treated if you were taken ill, or in an emergency.

The ReSPECT process allows for a full and meaningful conversation with your health care professional and your family about what care you would like when taken ill, and not just for end of life.

Dr Simon Lennane, GP at Alton Street Surgery in Ross, added: “Some of our GP surgeries are already supporting patients to have these conversations and completing the ReSPECT form and other practices have had their training and will be offering this service too. District nurses, community matrons, practice nurses, Macmillan nurses and hospice clinicians are also helping individuals and families with this process.”

Herefordshire GP practices and Herefordshire hospice teams will be the first to roll out the new process followed by Wye Valley NHS Trust in June and 2gether NHS Foundation Trust later this year.

The ReSPECT process is supported by Resuscitation UK and the Royal College of GPs.

Along with West Midlands Ambulance Service support, ReSPECT forms will also be held at home, and on GP and hospital records.

More information can be found on the ReSPECT website