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Excess workload prompts GP fears of missing serious illness in patients

And the strong feeling that general practice is underfunded, RCGP survey reveals

Caroline White

Monday, 12 May 2014

Around eight out of 10 GPs fear that workload pressures will make them miss serious illness in a patient, show the results of a small poll commissioned by the Royal College of GPs.

The ComRes online survey of 251 GPs across the UK, which was carried out in March, additionally shows that nine out of 10 (91%) respondents think that general practice does not have sufficient resources to deliver high quality patient care.

When asked to what extent they worried about missing something serious in a patient because of their workload, three out of 10 GPs (29%) said they worried a great deal, while over half (55%) said they worried a fair amount about this.

And only 7% of feel that general practice has sufficient resource to deliver high quality patient care.

The results also showed that 96% of respondents feel that morale has fallen during the past five years, while the same proportion found working in general practice stressful.

Furthermore, 70% of respondents believe that the provision of general practice, as we know it today, will not still exist in 10 years’ time.

“The fact that more than 80% of GPs worry that they will miss something serious in a patient, due to their high workloads, is a damning indictment of the impact of the deepening funding crisis in general practice,” commented RCGP spokesperson Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard.

“Family doctors and practice nurses want to provide their patients with excellent patient care - and this takes the right levels of funding,” she insisted, adding: “The fact that GPs and practice nurses conduct 90% of the NHS patient contacts for just over 8% of the NHS budget is shocking – and this poll shows how damaging this funding crisis is for our patients.”

General practice only receives 8.39% of the NHS budget, says the College, pointing out that research by Deloitte shows that if current trends continue, funding for general practice will decline by 17% over the next three years, leaving it with just 7.29% of the NHS budget by 2017-18.

In response to the funding crisis, the RCGP and the National Association for Patient Participation (NAPP) have launched a campaign called Put patients first: Back general practice which is calling on all four UK governments to ensure that general practice is given 11% of the NHS budget by 2017.

Dr Stokes-Lampard emphasised the levels of demoralisation among the profession, picked up by the poll.

“It is truly staggering that 70% of family doctors do not think that general practice, as we know it, will even exist in ten years' time – and shows that, among those who work in it, there is now a real crisis of confidence in the future of general practice,” she said.

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