GPs need more time to care for terminally ill patients

OVER 83 per cent of GPs listed giving more time to terminally ill patients as a top priority in improving end-of-life care but many said that they lacked the time and resource to deliver this, according to a recent survey by the RCGP and Marie Curie.

In the survey involving 84 GP practices across the UK, 71 per cent of GPs thought that over 20 minutes should ideally be allocated to consultations with terminally ill patients but 86 per cent reported that routine appointments were 20 minutes or less and nearly half (46 per cent) were only able to offer 10 minutes or less.

GPs on home visits spend longer time, with a third (33 per cent) saying they would ideally like to spend more than 40 minutes with patients but only 14 per cent were able to do so. The survey also highlighted the need for more education and training for practice staff and improved availability of support from community care services.

In response to the survey results, Marie Curie and the RCGP have called for a UK-wide Commission to develop recommendations on how primary care can ensure that GPs and their practices have the time and resources to provide high quality end-of-life care.

Former RCGP chair Professor Maureen Barker said: "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."

Dr Catherine Millington-Sanders, a practicing GP and RCGP/Marie Curie National End of Life Care Clinical Champion, said: "People with a terminal illness require a great deal of support throughout their illness and GPs, together with the wider community care teams, provide most of the medical care for the increasing number of people choosing to die at home. But with GPs and community care services under increasing pressure, we urgently need to consider how we can continue to provide appropriate care to the growing number of people who need our care and support."

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