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Nine in ten GPs say overwork could threaten patient safety

Three in ten GPs report seeking help for work-related stress

Mark Gould

Monday, 23 November 2015

Nine out of ten GPs worry about missing a serious clue about a patient's condition because of their onerous workload, according to a new poll. And three out of ten say they think that it is unlikely that their current surgery will be open in 10 years time.

The poll for the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), reveals that 91% of GPs do not think that general practice has enough resources to deliver safe patient care within the existing service. The poll also reveals:

  • Ninety-nine per cent of GPs say their workload has increased over the last five years
  • Ninety-four per cent say that fatigue has increased over the last five years
  • Ninety-seven per cent say that morale has decreased over the last five years
  • Three in ten GPs (29%) agree they have had to seek support, guidance or advice for work-related stress over the last two years.

The poll by ComRes interviewed 504 GPs online from 23-27 October with the data weighted to be representative of all GPs in the UK

Meanwhile, in a parallel poll, also commissioned for the RCGP, two thirds (66%) of patients say that ministers should focus on improving existing services, rather than delivering seven day access to general practice.The poll also reveals that three in ten patients report were not able to book a GP appointment within a week and two thirds say that GPs conducting between 40-60 consultations a day is a threat to the standard of care they can provide for their patients

In a message to Chancellor George Osborne as he prepares to deliver his Spending Review on Wednesday, RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker, said: "Fail to invest in general practice in the Spending Review, and general practice and the whole of the NHS is in danger of disintegrating before the end of the current parliament. It's as simple as that."

The College wants Mr Osborne to deliver an urgent cash injection into general practice  - with an additional £750m investment per year on an annual basis from April 2016, rising to an additional annual spend on general practice of £3.8bn per year by 2020. This would mean that general practice would receive around 11% of the NHS budget, up from 8.4% now - despite the fact that general practice conducts 90% of the patient contacts in the NHS.

The Department of Health declined to respond directly to ComRes’s findings. “GPs do a fantastic job and we know they are under pressure from growing demand. That’s why we’re working with the RCGP to recruit 5,000 more doctors over the next five years,” a spokesman said.

Ministers have already cut GPs’ must-do duties by a third under the quality and outcomes framework, ensured that a small but growing number of patients have telephone access to their family doctor and expanded the number of weekend and evening appointments that GP practices offer.

The DH added that 61% of voters favour seven-day GP access. However, growing evidence from continuing pilots suggests little demand for Sunday appointments.

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