GP surgeries will now be able to display a ‘daffodil mark’ as a sign of commitment to improving end of life care, as part of a new partnership between the Royal College of GPs 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 in delivering care to patients living with an advanced, serious illness, or at the end of their lives, and their loved ones.

By adopting the Standards, GP practices commit to making improvements in 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:

1. Professional and competent staff

2. Early identification of patients and carers

3. Carer support – before and after death

4. Seamless, planned, co-ordinated care

5. Assessment of unique needs of the patient

6. Quality care during the last days of life

7. Care after death

8. General practices being hubs within compassionate communities

To coincide with the launch, a new ComRes survey showed that 92% of GPs agree 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.

However, it also revealed that more than four in five (85%) GPs say that they do not have as much time as they would like to care for terminally ill or dying patients because of their workload.

Three in five (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.

The Standards fall back on the fundamental values of general practice being hubs within ‘compassionate communities’, which includes considering staff emotional support needs after their patients die.

According to the survey, seven in ten (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.

And three in five (59%) say that their practice does not organise ways for the 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 CQC, have been piloted by a number of 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 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: 

“Making sure that patients and their families feel supported at the end of life is an essential part of what we do, and in many ways, one of the most privileged aspects of our role.

“The demand on GPs and their teams to provide high-quality palliative care are only set to rise though, as our population continues to age and we begin to see more patients present with more complex, long-term conditions.

“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 the College continues to call for NHS England’s GP Forward View, which promised an extra £2.5bn a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs, to be delivered, in full, as soon as possible, along with guarantees that frontline general practice will receive a significant share of the additional funding earmarked for primary and community care outlined in the NHS Long-Term Plan.”

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.

“The new Standards will play a key role in excellent end of life care and ensure that busy GPs and practice staff have the support they need to improve the quality of care provided. It has been a real privilege working with the RCGP on the development of the Daffodil Standards.”