GPs in the UK are dealing with an average of 41.5 patient contacts every day, which is 60 percent more than what is deemed safe by peers in Europe, an investigation by Pulse has revealed.
According to the publication’s survey of 900 GPs, more than 20 percent reported having more than 50 daily patient contacts – which includes appointments, telephone and online consultations and home visits – while some said the number was a high as 70.
It notes that a leading European GP forum recommends no more than 25 contacts a day, and that the BMA’s GP Committee has already called for requested a limit to the number of daily consultations carried out, as yet to no avail.
"This survey backs up what the College has been saying for years – that many GPs and our teams are regularly working way beyond what could be considered safe for patients, and potentially jeopardising our own health and wellbeing,” said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs.
But she also stressed that the issue is not necessarily sheer amount of consultations being undertaken, but their content, with patients increasingly presenting with more complex, chronic conditions – many of which require much longer than the standard 10-minute consultation.
"Our workload needs to be addressed – it has risen at least 16 percent over the last seven years, yet the share of the overall NHS budget general practice receives is less than it was a decade ago, and our workforce has not risen at pace with demand.”
“We know that unmanageable and unsafe workload is the primary reason behind doctors leaving general practice, which is leading to serious issues including practices closing to new patients and other surgeries closing entirely,” said Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair. “This workload pressure also means GPs are increasingly suffering from burnout and patients are being put at risk of unsafe care.”
He went on the note that the Association has already called for practices “to be empowered to set their own capacity limits for safe working, which includes limiting the number of consultations per day, as well as an alert system for practices to ring the warning bell when a practice has reached capacity.
“The government must work with the BMA to come up with a long-term solution – including workforce and funding – to ensure the needs a growing population with increasingly complex conditions can be met safely on the front line,” he stressed