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'Ten minutes isn't enough time to see patients' - GPs’ fears revealed in survey

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 09/04/2015

Almost half of GPs here feel they are under pressure with “unmanageable workloads”, a survey by the British Medical Association has revealed
Almost half of GPs here feel they are under pressure with “unmanageable workloads”, a survey by the British Medical Association has revealed

The vast majority of GPs in Northern Ireland do not believe the consultation time they have with patients is long enough.

Almost half of GPs here feel they are under pressure with "unmanageable workloads", a survey by the British Medical Association has revealed.

The poll, which quizzed more than 15,000 family doctors across the UK, showed that funding, out of hours services and workloads are areas of huge concern among the profession.

In the province, 53% of GPs said the level of work they faced was too heavy at times with 40% describing it as unmanageable.

Nearly six out of 10 GPs working in out of hours services (56%) felt their workload was having a detrimental impact on the care they provide.

The BMA survey comes a month after one Belfast GP described the waiting room at the out-of-hours base where she works as "a warzone".

Doctors also said the standard 10-minute consultation with patients was not long enough.

The new survey published today also shows that more than 80% of those polled in the province believe that increased core funding would help them deliver a better service. Stormont Health Minister Jim Wells recently announced £15m in funding for GP services in Northern Ireland.

But the BMA said it needs £33m if the problems in the system are to be addressed.

Other key findings showed the province had the highest number of GPs (81%) saying core GP contract opening hours provide adequate and appropriate access for patients.

Dr Tom Black, BMA Northern Ireland GP Committee Chair, said the survey clearly confirms the areas of huge concern for local GPs.

The poll identified 83% who said continuity of care was one of the most essential features of general practice.

"However, we are well aware that many practices simply do not have the funding or the number of GPs required to sustain services as they would like," he said.

Dr Black added that funding for general practice here currently lags behind that of the rest of the UK.

"The department recently announced £15 million investment in GP services, however we expect less than £2million of this to go into core GP daytime services.

"Rising workloads and inadequate resources are clearly undermining GP services in Northern Ireland, a situation which seems to be common in many parts of the UK as this survey shows."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "All parts of the health and social care sector in Northern Ireland face increasing pressure."

"In spite of this, the department has been working with the BMA to make significant new investments in GP services and to continue to cut bureaucracy."


• Only one in 10 GPs feel that the standard 10-minute consultation is adequate.

• Almost six out of 10 GPs working feel that their workload is having a detrimental effect on the care they provide.

• Two thirds of GPs feel there should be longer consultations for certain groups of patients, including those who suffer from long-term conditions.

‘Paperwork eats into life after work’

Dr Frances O’Hagan is a GP from Armagh and a mother of three:

“The volume of work is just massive. I start my day at my desk at 8am so I can catch up with other work before seeing patients.

On Wednesday I started at 8.30am and was out doing visits, speaking to patients — then I’m back to the surgery to deal with fall-out from the busy morning. I was still expecting another call from ambulance control and at least four or five referrals to do. I’d paperwork generated from over Easter that has to be done and I’m supposed to finish at 1pm — but will be in the office until at least 2.30pm. The problem is the demand for services has gone up. Last year we did 12.9 million consultations. The bureaucracy ties us up well after you are supposed to leave work or well into your evening when you are working a full day. Very few GPs I know get home before 8pm. Then there are those who work in the out-of-hours.

That opens at 6pm. I work in out of hours and the workload is awful as it is so busy. There are patients with complex needs and the allocated 10 minutes for each patient just doesn’t do it.”

Belfast Telegraph

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