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The difference between general care planning and advance care planning
  1. Sheila Joseph,
  2. Simon Chapman and
  3. Professor Claud Regnard
  1. Sheila Joseph, National End of Life Care Programme’s Advance Care Planning Lead, Simon Chapman, National Council for Palliative Care, London, and Professor Claud Regnard, St Oswald’s Hospice and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, Newcastle. For further information: National End of Life Care Programme, 3rd Floor, St John’s House, East Street, Leicester LE1 6NB. Email: Website:

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Social and health care requires planning. Holistic patient assessment enables individual needs to be identified before the provision of appropriate care. Often care provision requires a multidisciplinary, coordinated response. Holistic assessment helps this process, allowing individuals and families to consider all aspects of care and plan for the future. Assessment should be centred around people’s concerns and be flexible enough to respond to new circumstances.

Assessment during end-of-life care should be a continual process. The nature of the dying phase of terminal illness will vary from individual to individual and according to diagnosis. Assessment should, therefore, be repeated whenever the individual or a professional considers it necessary.

Offering terminally ill patients the opportunity to conduct advance care planning enables decisions to be made about future treatment, which reflect individual patient preferences. This process is particularly important to protect individuals in the event that they lose the mental capacity to make decisions regarding their care. To mark the ‘Dying Matters Week’ in March 2010, the National End of Life Care Programme published a chart describing the differences between general care planning and advance care planning. Amongst the factors considered in the chart is the legal status of each type of decision or care planning. This chart is available in a table format and can be downloaded from the National End of Life Care Programme website (see web address below).

General care planning/advance care planning: definitions and differentiation

Individuals involved in a person’s care must understand the difference between general care planning and advance care planning (ACP). Robust assessment processes must be used to ensure ACP information is up to date and that patients’ wishes are shared between different professional groups — although patient consent to such sharing is required.

General care planning

The activity of general care planning may be undertaken in any …

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