GPs are being snowed under with large amounts of guidelines every month that are putting unfair pressure on their workload, warns the Medical Protection Society (MPS).
The MPS said it is worried by the increasing expectations on doctors in relation to the volume and complexity of guidelines and protocols they receive which meant the most important information could be missed.
The medico-legal organisation reviewed the 15 guidelines issued to GPs by key organisations during October and found it was wide-ranging and sometimes untailored for the doctor audience, as it included subjects such as guidance for CQC inspectors on equality and human rights, and the public health risks of fish pedicures.
These documents were often unfocussed and lengthy, which put extra pressure on doctors in an already stretched working environment, said the MPS.
In the majority of cases, the documents being sent out to doctors were longer than 30 pages and exceeded 100 pages across multiple documents for some sets of guidance.
This pressure was in addition to the requirement for doctors to keep up to date with developments in their area of clinical expertise.
Dr Stephanie Bown, director of policy and communications at the MPS said: “The tsunami of unfocused guidelines and protocols received each month is undermining their value.
“There is an expectation of doctors to have local knowledge about every subject, and this is a wholly unrealistic and unnecessary source of pressure.
“It is absolutely right that a doctor keeps abreast of new and emerging developments in their field of practice, but to expect a high level of awareness of everything is impractical and unnecessarily burdensome. More should be done to help doctors identify and focus on the information that is relevant to their practice.”
Dr John Adams, associate medico-legal adviser at MPS and practising hospital doctor added: “Often the guidelines are so specialised that it is not relevant to all doctors’ practice. The danger is that doctors may receive so many emails of varying importance that the most crucial information is being missed.
“One way to make it more effective would be to tailor the guidance to specific specialities and to provide a summary of key points with all documents. Some guidance includes a summary, but not all.
“A coordinated approach could also work well, such as a summary of guidelines from all organisations for a set period of time that the doctor could browse and select the most relevant items.
“It is important that doctors are able to dedicate their time and energies to fulfilling their core role as doctors, and are not unreasonably expected to know things outside their field of knowledge, expertise and responsibility.”
MPS said it would continue to monitor this issue and seek to make recommendations for more streamlined communications with relevant organisations.