There is evidence to suggest that patients with cancer and other non-malignant chronic progressive illnesses can experience distressing symptoms, or concerns, which can often remain unrecognised. There is little disagreement that routine systematic questioning is useful in identifying supportive or palliative care needs that would otherwise not be identified. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of holistic needs assessment in the fields of supportive and palliative care and to present evidence of the value of routine systematic questioning. Systematic questioning allows needs to be identified and addressed. There is at present no standardised systematic, evidence-based holistic approach to screening patients for supportive and palliative care needs.
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