Call for better access to palliative care at home

TERMINALLY ill patients being treated at home need better access to care and pain relief according to a recent survey commissioned by Marie Curie.

The survey of around 1,000 GPs conducted by Doctors.net.uk across the UK found that only 39 per cent of GPs believe their terminally ill patients get adequate access to care at night and at weekends and a third of GPs do not believe their terminally ill patients get adequate access to specialist palliative care nursing.

It also found that only four in 10 GPs believe the majority of their terminally ill patients’ pain is relieved completely. GPs were asked to indicate factors that are likely to reduce quality of pain control. Three out of five GPs (59 per cent) cited a lack of anticipatory (just in case) prescribing, 53 per cent expressed concern about over-prescribing medication and 39 per cent considered poor availability of pain relief out of hours a determining factor.

Over eight in 10 GPs rated access to 24/7 specialist palliative care rapid response teams as a key answer to improving access to pain control at home.

The issue surrounding around the clock care is highlighted in a new report published by Marie Curie, called Difficult Conversations with Dying People and their Families. Families reported having to chase after prescriptions, nurses waiting hours for vital drugs to arrive, and locums unable to prescribe.

Dr Bill Noble, Medical Director of Marie Curie, said: "GPs are best placed to ensure effective co-ordination of palliative care. If their patients are to get the care they need to be at home in their terminal illness, NHS, social services and voluntary sector professionals all have their part to play."

Imelda Redmond CBE, Director of Policy & Public Affairs at Marie Curie, added: "Everyone is telling us – from GPs, families and carers – that more needs to be done to improve access to specialist palliative care and pain control at home.

"We know that effective pain management at home is an important factor that influences whether someone has a 'good death', and we only have one chance to get it right."