Most GPs have too little time to discuss end of life care

Nearly three quarters of GPs have too little time to discuss end of life care with patients - and only just over half feel comfortable doing so, a poll reveals.

GPs face time pressure (Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images)
GPs face time pressure (Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images)

Amid rising pressure on general practice, 72% of the 370 GPs who responded to a survey by the medico-legal organisation Medical Protection said they did not have enough time to discuss end of life care.

The findings come just months after the RCGP published quality improvement standards for end of life care in general practice, alongside research showing that four in five GPs felt that heavy workload left them unable to dedicate as much time as they would like to end of life care.

The Medical Protection poll also found that just 55% of GPs felt comfortable talking to patients about dying. The defence organisation said good communication around end of life issues was vital to ensure quality care, and warned that easing pressure on GPs was essential to allow time for this.

End of life care

Medical Protection medical director Dr Rob Hendry said: 'When discussing end of life issues good communication between a doctor, the patient and their family is important. When patients and their families feel they have been consulted and involved in decisions, the process of death and grieving can be less burdensome.

'The death of a patient can also have an important impact on doctors and they should not be afraid to seek help in these circumstances. Talking through these feelings with a close friend or colleague can be helpful.'

Practices that sign up to deliver eight standards published earlier this year by the RCGP can display a 'daffodil mark' to demonstrate their commitment to providing good quality end of life care. The standards cover care planning, support for carers, early identification of patients who need support and other factors.

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