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Patients at risk as GPs are overworked

Patients at risk as GPs are overworked

Nine out of ten family doctors in England feel unable to offer safe care to patients because of mounting workloads, new data suggests.

A survey of over 5,000 members of the British Medical Association found 84 per cent of doctors feel their heavy workload is negatively impacting the care they provide. Even more worryingly, just one in 10 GPs think they provide a reliable examination.

This could be down to doctors' claims that they’re lacking funding to keep up with the needs of the population.

To add to this problem, up to a third of the GPs are planning to quit or retire in the next five years, putting surgeries in a sticky situation. Many health professionals are moving abroad and with not enough people being trained to replace them, one in eight posts are now vacant.

These issues are impacting patients when it comes to booking appointments too, with people being told they must wait up to four weeks for an empty slot.

“We cannot continue to have a service that cannot deliver a safe and effective level of care to the public,” Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA GPs committee, warns.

“This major survey of more than 5,000 GPs in England 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.”

Dr Nagpaul insists an “urgent” expansion of the workforce is needed, in both practices and community-based teams in order for housebound patients to be cared for properly too. In addition, he feels patients should be provided with more self-care notes for times when a GP isn’t available, and more funding is needed for general practices.

In other related news, it’s been found family doctors are denying more and more face-to-face appointments in a bid to reduce the demand, instead opting for three-minute phone assessments. However, experts worry this means GPs are missing symptoms which can only be recognised close at hand.

“Doctors cannot see if they’re pale, jaundiced, shaking, altering their walk, if they’ve got a tremor – dressing differently,” Sir Denis Pereira Gray, ex-president of the Royal College of GPs, said.

“There are 101 things experienced GPs can see in ordinary consultations. We have evidence it’s extremely worrying and upsetting for patients.”

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