GPs say workload affecting quality of care

Nine out of ten GPs complained about 'unsustainable' workloads. Picture: Getty

Nine out of ten GPs complained about 'unsustainable' workloads. Picture: Getty

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NINE out of ten GPs believe their “unsustainable” workload is having a damaging effect on patient care, a new survey by doctors’ leaders has found.

Three quarters of family ­doctors in Scotland who took part in the British Medical Association (BMA) 2015 national survey said the amount they have to do “at times has a negative impact on the quality of care” patients receive.

Scotland has the highest proportion of GPs in the UK who cited this concern, with a further 17 per cent stating that their workload “significantly negatively impacts” on the quality of care they are able to deliver.

The survey found 60 per cent of Scots doctors described their workload as being “generally manageable” but “too heavy at times”, while a quarter said it was “unmanageable”.

Dr Colette Maule, co­­negotiator of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, said: “This survey reflects the immense pressure that GPs working across Scotland are feeling just now.

“The rising workload is ­simply unsustainable and something has to change, other­wise general practice will break.”

The majority of respondents called for longer consultation times, as only 8 per cent thought ten minutes was sufficient time per patient consultation.

Doctors also stressed the need for more GPs and increased core funding for practices.

Dr Maule said: “Giving us more time with patients, expanding the GP workforce and supporting the practice-based primary care team will help to ensure the quality of care our patients receive remains of a high standard.

“In addition, providing stable funding arrangements to meet the rising costs of providing increasingly complex care in the community will alleviate some of the helplessness that GPs are clearly feeling just now.

“Politicians need to stop fixating on how they can demand more from general practice and instead focus on what they can do to support GPs to provide the quality of care our patients deserve within the constraints that exist.”

A total of 1844 doctors took part in the research, which ­represents 37 per cent of all GPs in Scotland.

Health secretary Shona Robison defended the Scottish Government’s record on supporting general practice, and argued that individual practices determined their own appointment and consultation arrangements.

She said: “The recently agreed new GP contract in Scotland will give general practice financial stability, reducing the bureaucratic burden and freeing up GPs to spend more time with patients.

“The length of a consultation will vary depending on the clinical needs of the individual patient and is a matter of ­professional judgement for the GP.”

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com