GP surgeries that are committed to good end-of-life care will be able to display a ‘daffodil mark’, as part of a joint initiative between the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) and the terminal illness charity Marie Curie.
The mark, synonymous with the charity, is based on a new set of criteria called the Daffodil Standards, a set of eight quality improvement statements designed to support primary care teams to care for patients living with an advanced, serious illness or at the end of their lives, and their loved ones.
By adopting the Standards, GP practices pledge to improve at least three of eight core aspects of care each year, with the aim of having reviewed all of them after three years.
The eight Daffodil Standards are: professional and competent staff; early identification of patients and carers; carer support before and after death; seamless, planned, co-ordinated care; assessment of the unique needs of the patient; quality care during the last days of life; care after death; and general practices being hubs within compassionate communities.
To coincide with the launch of the daffodil mark, the results of a ComRes survey show that most (92%) of GPs agree that it is important for them to spend time caring for terminally ill or dying patients, and another 87% say that caring for terminally ill or dying patients is a rewarding part of their job.
But the responses also revealed that more than eight out of 10 (85%) GPs say that they don’t have as much time as they would like to care for terminally ill or dying patients because of their workload.
And nearly two thirds (62%) disagree that there are enough community resources to give families and carers of terminally ill or dying patients the emotional support that they need.
Seven in 10 (71%) GPs agree that there should be more resources available to help GPs and practice staff with the grief of losing patients, with just 2% saying their practice holds formal support sessions on dealing with grief and loss.
Over half (59%) say that their practice doesn’t help staff to share stories or get support for dealing with grief and loss.
The Standards, which have already been recognised by the new Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) on end-of-life care and the health services regulator, the Care Quality Commission, have been piloted by several surgeries across the UK, and each Standard comes with its own evidence-based tools, exercises and quality improvement steps.
Dr Catherine Millington-Sanders, end-of-life care lead at the RCGP and Marie Curie, 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.
"That's why the RCGP and Marie Curie have developed these Standards. Most importantly, they are there to ensure that when patients see the 'daffodil mark' in our window or on the wall in our waiting rooms, they know we are committed to providing the care and support they need and deserve."
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, added: "The demand on GPs and their teams to provide high-quality palliative care is only set to rise as our population continues to age and we begin to see more patients present with more complex, long-term conditions.”
Dr Jane Collins, chief executive of Marie Curie, said: "From talking to families we know that GPs and practice staff make such a difference to how patients and families experience end of life care. Having someone they can go to who they know well, trust, and help them prepare for the future, is vitally important at such a difficult time. It is also clear from the survey findings that GPs recognise how important their role is and how rewarding they find this part of their work.”