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Excessive workload driving GPs to breaking point

Survey reveals eight out of ten GPs say work pressure is putting patients at risk

Mark Gould

Monday, 28 November 2016

Eight out of ten GPs believe that workload pressures are either unmanageable or excessive, and are having a direct impact on the quality and safety of the care they deliver to patients, according to a new BMA survey of over 5,000 GPs. Only one in ten describe their workload as manageable and allowing for good and safe quality of care.

In the South East, West Midlands, and Yorkshire and Humberside, nearly nine out of ten GPs reported "unmanageable" levels of workload. GPs outlined a broad range of options to help tackle these problems, such as increased provision of enhanced community nurses to manage vulnerable housebound patients (64%), more help to enable patients to safely self-care (59%) and greater provision of mental health workers (53%) in the community.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA GP committee, said the survey demonstrates that GP practices across the country are struggling to provide safe, high-quality patient care because of unmanageable workload.

"Many practices are being overwhelmed by rising patient demand, contracting budgets and staff shortages which has left them unable to deliver enough appointments and the specialist care many patients need," he said.

“Addressing the crisis in general practice requires a clear strategy that tackles the numerous problems undermining local GP services. We need an urgent expansion of the workforce in both practices and community-based teams, with GPs calling for an increased number of nurses to look after housebound patients and mental health workers to cope with growing demand in this area. Better information for patients about how to safely self-care and wider funding increases for general practice are also needed.

“The recent GP Forward View accepted the principles behind the BMA’s Urgent Prescription for General Practice which laid out practical solutions, like those identified in our survey, that the government needs to implement urgently. We cannot continue to have a service that cannot deliver a safe and effective level of care to the public.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, says the survey echoes much of what the College has been saying for some time – "the relentlessness of the workload in general practice is a threat to our own health and our patients' safety".

“GPs will see a total of 1.3 million patients today alone, and rising patient demand means GPs are carrying out more consultations than ever before - currently 370 million a year and 60 million more per year than even five years ago.

“Over the past three years, the College’s Put patients first: Back general practice campaign has raised awareness of the crippling workload pressures facing general practice.”

She said the GP Forward View (GPFV) “could provide a lifeline for our profession”. “We are now focused on making sure that the pledges in the GPFV become a reality, sooner rather than later, so that GPs and our teams are fully supported to provide excellent care for our patients now, and in the future," she concluded.  

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