New standards launched as GPs struggle to find time to care for dying patients

28 February 2019

Insight, a new survey undertaken by ComRes for the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has found that the majority of doctors say they are too busy to provide the quality of end-of-life care they would like to.

Although 92% of doctors said end-of-life care was an “important” part of being a doctor, four out of five of them said they did not have enough time to do it well.

Researchers surveyed 1000 GPs across the UK and found they blamed growing workloads and funding cuts for the problem. The research also found 62% of doctors felt there was insufficient community support available to terminally ill patients and their families, due to lack of funding.

The RCGP announced its findings as it launched a new set of “Daffodil Standards” with terminal illness charity Marie Curie.

RCGP and Marie Curie End-of-life Care Lead Dr Catherine Millington-Sanders 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.”

The standards advise surgeries how they can improve their end-of-life care service. The RCGP website describes them as “a blend of quality statements, evidence-based tools, reflective learning exercises and quality improvement steps”. It includes competent staff; early identification of patients/carers; assessment of unique needs; care after death and GP surgeries being compassionate.

RCGP Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard announced: “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.”

The Daffodil Standards: Self-assessment Evidence and Guidance is available at www.rcgp.org.uk.