Bereavement care in primary care: a systematic literature review and narrative synthesis

Shobhana Nagraj, Stephen Barclay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Over half a million people die in Britain each year and, on average, a GP will have 20 patients die annually. Bereavement is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, but the research evidence on which GPs and district nurses can base their practice is limited.

Aim: To review the existing literature concerning how GPs and district nurses think they should care for patients who are bereaved and how they do care for them.

Design: Systematic literature review.

Method: Searches of AMED, BNI, CINAHL, EMBASE, Medline and PsychInfo databases were undertaken, with citation searches of key papers and hand searches of two journals. Inclusion criteria were studies containing empirical data relating to adult bereavement care provided by GPs and district nurses. Information from data extraction forms were analysed using NVivo software, with a narrative synthesis of emergent themes.

Results: Eleven papers relating to GPs and two relating to district nurses were included. Both groups viewed bereavement care as an important and satisfying part of their work, for which they had received little training. They were anxious not to ‘medicalise’ normal grief. Home visits, telephone consultations, and condolence letters were all used in their support of bereaved people.

Conclusion: A small number of studies were identified, most of which were >10 years old, from single GP practices, or small in size and of limited quality. Although GPs and district nurses stated a preference to care for those who were bereaved in a proactive fashion, little is known of the extent to which this takes place in current practice, or the content of such care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e42-e48
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number582
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Bereavement
  • Primary care

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