MORE than half of GPs are working above safe limits with some treating more than 120 patients a day, a worrying study reveals.
The family doctors warn they are making mistakes as they struggle to deal with up to four-times as many patients as they should.
Getty – Contributor More than half of GPs fear their increasingly heavy workload is putting patients at risk
The strain means some also find it hard to be sympathetic to people coming through their door.
Full-time GPs offer an average of 41 consultations a day, with a mix of face-to-face, phone, online and home visits.
But this is more than the 30 a day they consider safe. One in ten deals with at least 60 patients daily, with one reportedly seeing 124.
The results are based on a poll of 1,681 GPs by doctor’s magazine Pulse, who quizzed medics on their workload on one day.
It found they worked an average 11-hour shift, with eight of these spent on clinical work and three completing administrative tasks.
Some 29 per cent of GPs described their appointments as “very complex” and 37 per cent as “fairly complex.”
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “In my own practice recently, I had a 12-hour day and 100 patient contacts.
“GPs across the UK will tell similar stories.”
Dr Jonathan Harte, a Nottingham GP, said: “By lunchtime, I felt on the edge and risked missing urgent tasks and contacts, thus affecting patient safety.”
Dr James Howarth, a GP in Spilsby, Lincs, said: “I was duty doctor on the day of Pulse’s survey, and I had 124 patient contacts.
“This workload creates patient safety risks.
“There are risks around having multiple patient notes open because we’re helping a nurse out with hers, or we’re 30 minutes late so we see the next patient while finishing the notes of the last.
“We might forget consultant details, plans and actions, or prescribe for the wrong person, use the wrong labels on blood tests, and so on.”
He faced patient demands and a “workload dump” from hospital staff, including prescription requests, discharge letters and referrals.
He admitted in the previous week he sent a blood test using the wrong patient details due to being extremely busy.
You could miss a result or misread a letter, or you don’t focus on the right symptom or ask the right questionProf Clare Gerada, former chair of the RCGP
He added: “I spotted it in time, but how many do we fail to spot?
“I have raised safety concerns with governing bodies before. I was basically told to shut up or my practice would be run over with a fine-toothed comb.”
A Hertfordshire GP said: “There is a point where I feel cognitively drained; after about 20 patients, there is not an iota of empathy left.”
Prof Clare Gerada, former chair of the RCGP, warned tired GPs were at risk of mistakes, and high numbers of patients added to this.
She said: “You could miss a result or misread a letter, or you don’t focus on the right symptom or ask the right question.”
Doctors in Europe see no more than 25 patients a day.
A report in March from the King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation think tanks predicted GP shortages in England will almost triple to 7,000 by 2023/24.
It said the Government would miss its target to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020 and the only way to cope with the growing workload was to put more pharmacists and physios into GP practices.
NHS England said: “We already know that general practice is under pressure which is why investment in local doctors and community services is increasing by £4.5billion, helping fund an army of 20,000 more staff to support GP practices.
“But we are also aware that almost nine out of 10 salaried GPs currently work part-time.”
Getty – Contributor Full-time GPs offer an average of 41 consultations a day, with a mix of face-to-face, phone, online and home visits
Overseas nurse lift
FOREIGN nurse recruitment is at its highest level in 13 years after language checks were made easier.
Figures show 6,157 were hired in 2018/19 — more than double the previous year’s 2,720.
It follows last year’s lowering of the English language test pass mark by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to boost foreign recruitment.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “It’s excellent to see more nurses and midwives are joining our brilliant NHS from at home and abroad.”
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