Terminally-ill people are not getting access to the right care when they need it, according to a new survey which reveals GPs’ concerns about supporting patients being cared for at home.

Only 39% of GPs believe their terminally-ill patients are getting adequate access to care at night and at weekends, reports the survey, commissioned by Marie Curie with Doctors.net.uk.

It also finds that a third of GPs do not believe their terminally-ill patients get adequate access to specialist palliative nursing, and only 40% feel that the majority of pain experienced by these patients is relieved completely.

When GPs were asked to indicate factors that are likely to reduce the quality of pain control, 59% cited a lack of anticipatory (just in case) prescribing, while 53% expressed concern about over-prescribing and 39% considered poor availability of pain relief out of hours to be a determining factor.

Of those GPs who do not feel that patients get adequate access to pain control at home, over eight in 10 believe access to 24.7 specialist palliative care rapid response teams to be a key answer to improving this situation, the survey finds.

Marie Curie has also published a new study on around-the-clock care issues,  which reports families having to chase after prescriptions, nurses waiting hours for vital drugs to arrive and locums unable to prescribe.

“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,” said Imelda Redmond, director of policy and public affairs at Marie Curie.

Terminally-ill people and their families need timely access to care and pain relief around the clock, but at present, two-thirds of this time is considered to be “out of hours” by the healthcare system. With only 17% of those terminally-ill people who are at home having their pain relieved completely, it is vital that healthcare professionals are available to these patients around the clock and that they are equipped to provide pain relief, Ms Redmond emphasised.

“Terminally-ill people should not be spending their last precious weeks and days with their families in unnecessary pain because the system moves too slowly. This is why we are calling on clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to do more to ensure that 24/7 care is universally accessible for all terminally-ill people and their families, no matter where they live in the country,” she said.