Four in five GPs struggle to find time to care for dying patients, survey shows

The RCGP has published quality improvement standards for end of life care in general practice after it was revealed that more than four in five GPs want more time to support terminally ill or dying patients.

Despite the vast majority of GPs agreeing that end of life care is an ‘important’ (92%) and ‘rewarding’ (87%) part of general practice, 85% say that heavy workloads leave them unable to deliver it to the standard they would like. It was also found that 62% of more than 1,000 GP respondents felt there was not enough community support available to cater to the emotional needs of the family and friends of terminally ill patients.

The survey - by market research company ComRes - coincided with the launch of quality improvement standards designed by the RCGP and terminal illness charity Marie Curie. The standards are designed to support GPs and their teams in 'delivering care to patients living with an advanced, serious or terminal illness and their loved ones'.

Quality improvement

In adopting the standards, practices commit to making improvements in at least three of eight core aspects of end of life care each year - with the aim of reviewing all of them after three years. The eight ‘daffodil standards’ are:

  • Professional and competent staff
  • Early identification of patients and carers
  • Carer support - before and after death
  • Seamless, planned, co-ordinated care
  • Assessment of unique needs of the patient
  • Quality care during the last days of life
  • Care after death
  • General practices being hubs within compassionate communities

Under the partnership, practices adhering to the standards will be able to display a ‘daffodil mark’ as a sign of commitment to end of life care.

End of life care

Dr Catherine Millington-Sanders, end of life care lead at the RCGP and Marie Curie, said: ‘GPs are central to providing excellent end of life care, and we know how much patients and their families value being able to have an open conversation with their doctor about what lies ahead.

‘Our colleagues are already working hard to provide this level of care, but pressures on our system and a lack of resources in the community can sometimes make going the extra mile that bit harder, which can be incredibly frustrating for us and our teams.   

‘That’s why the RCGP and Marie Curie have developed these standards. Most importantly, they are there to ensure that when patients see the ‘daffodil mark’ in our window or on the wall in our waiting rooms, they know we are committed to providing the care and support they need and deserve.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘We’re delighted to be able to launch these standards with Marie Curie and hope they go a long way in supporting GPs, their teams, and, of course, our patients, but current pressures on our service and the effects they are having on our ability to consistently provide high-quality palliative care cannot be ignored.

‘That’s why it’s essential that the pledges for more investment for general practice and for more GPs and practice staff, made in NHS England’s GP Forward View and the NHS long-term plan are delivered urgently and in full.’

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