The majority of GPs do not have the time they would like to support their patients with a terminal illness, according to a new UK-wide survey from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and Marie Curie.
83 per cent of GPs listed giving more time to terminally ill patients as a top priority for general practice in terms of improving end of life care, but many said that they lacked the time and resource to deliver this.
GPs said that they would ideally like more time than they currently have with patients and families, and particularly for those who are able to visit their surgeries.
While the majority of GPs (71 per cent) thought that over 20 minutes should ideally be allocated to consultations with terminally ill patient at the practice, 86 per cent said their routine appointment time was 20 minutes or less and nearly half (46 per cent) were only able to offer 10 minutes or less.
On average GPs spent longer on home visits, but while a third (33 per cent) said they would ideally like to spend more than 40 minutes with patients, only 14 per cent were able to.
One of the GPs surveyed said, ‘Special provision needs to be made for this group of patients – they need more time and a flexible proactive approach. At the moment they are just squeezed in amongst all the acute care and paperwork in an already full day. It is impossible to give the best possible care in these conditions and can be very frustrating for everyone.’
The survey – which involved 184 GP practices across the UK – also highlighted the need for more education and training for practice staff and issues with the availability of support from community care services.
In response to the results of the survey, Marie Curie and the RCGP have called for a UK-wide commission to develop recommendations on how primary care will ensure that GPs and their practices have the time and resources to provide high quality end-of-life care.
Professor Maureen Barker, Chair of the RCGP, commented, ‘The unique role of a GP means that we care for patients from the beginning to the end of their lives, and caring for our terminally ill patients is one of the most challenging yet rewarding parts of our job.
‘But caring for patients at or nearing the end of their lives requires time, and with the current resource and workforce pressures facing general practice, its unsurprising that so many of our members don’t feel they have enough time to do this most effectively.
‘With the number of terminally ill people who will need the support of their GP team only set to increase, this is an issue that needs to be tackled now. We therefore strongly support Marie Curie’s call for a UK-wide commission to look at the resources GP practices need in order to deliver excellent care.’