Half of GPs are concerned that their current workloads are “unsafe”, according to a new poll.
Family doctors are on average working 11 hours and dealing with 37 patients in a day, a survey found.
And half say their workload levels are not safe, according to the research carried out by GP publication Pulse.
Leading medics said GPs face “intense pressures” and this is affecting their health and wellbeing and “potentially patient safety”.
The survey of 1,400 family doctors from across the UK found:
– GPs said the maximum daily number of patients should be 28 to enable them to provide “safe” care but on average they are having 37 consultations each day.
– 70% said their workload is higher than before the pandemic.
– Asked whether they consider their current workload to be at a “safe level”, 49% said no, 40% said yes and 11% said “Don’t know”.
In order to limit the spread of Covid-19, a significant proportion of GP appointments are being offered remotely instead of in person.
Doctors participating in the poll expressed concern that telephone and online consultations take longer as they involve multi-tasking.
And they worry about missing vital clues from patients’ body language.
While (GPs) have gone the extra mile for their patients throughout the pandemic, there is only so far they can stretch themselves before they reach breaking pointDr Richard Vautrey, BMA GPs Committee
It comes after analysis by the PA news agency found that only 54% of appointments at GP surgeries in England were carried out face to face between March and December 2020 – the figure was 80% for the same period in 2019.
Two out of five (40%) appointments were conducted over the phone between March and December last year, a rise from 13% during the same period the previous year, according to NHS Digital experimental data.
Leading GP Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, said remote appointments are often more difficult and time-consuming.
He told Pulse: “While more and more appointments are now taking place via telephone or online, there is a misconception that remote working is somehow ‘easier’ for GPs and other practice clinicians, or takes less time than face-to-face consultations. This is not the case and the opposite is often true.
“As we move beyond the crisis stage of this winter wave, GPs will continue to face intense pressures and we must ensure all in the general practice workforce are given time to rest and recharge before autumn.”
He added: “While (GPs) have gone the extra mile for their patients throughout the pandemic, there is only so far they can stretch themselves before they reach breaking point.”
This isn’t sustainable. Working under these intense pressures is impacting on GPs’ health and wellbeing, and potentially patient safetyProfessor Martin Marshall, Royal College of GPs
Royal College of GPs chairman Professor Martin Marshall said: “The College has been raising concerns about the workforce and workload pressures facing general practice – and the need for them to be addressed – for some time.
“The pandemic has only exacerbated these pressures. GPs and our teams continue to work long days – well above their ‘normal’ hours – as they strive to deliver the care patients need, as well as all their other responsibilities.
“This isn’t sustainable, and, as these survey results show, working under these intense pressures is impacting on GPs’ health and wellbeing, and potentially patient safety.”
An NHS spokesman said: “GPs, like all NHS staff, have faced challenges with Covid-19.
“We have provided a number of financial and practical measures to support practices and staff, which include coaching and mentoring, additional financial support for clinical directors, and £270 million to expand general practice capacity during the pandemic.”