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28.11.16

GPs claim excessive workloads putting patient safety at risk

Eight out of 10 GPs believe their patients’ safety could be at risk because of excessive workloads, a new survey from the BMA shows.

According to the survey, 57% of GPs thought that their workload “at times” prevented them from providing quality and safe care to patients, while just over a quarter said it “significantly” prevented them.

The highest rates of GPs reporting unmanageable workloads were in the south east, the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA GP committee, said: “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.”

He added that the government needed to “urgently” implement the GP Forward View, which includes a £2.4bn increase in funding and sets a target of raising GP recruitment to 3,250 every year.

The Forward View also promised more mental health and other support staff for GP surgeries. This idea was supported by respondents to the BMA survey. When asked what would help them deliver safer care, 64% replied more community nurses, 53% said increased numbers of community mental health workers, and 59% added greater support for patients to self-care.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), agreed that the GP Forward View “could provide a lifeline” and that the RCGP would focus on ensuring the pledges “become a reality sooner rather than later”.

At the moment, she said, “the relentlessness of the workload in general practice is a threat to our own health and our patients’ safety”.

The RCGP also estimates that up to 600 practices are at risk of closure because of a shortage of doctors. Some Forward View funds, including a £16m Practice Resilience Programme, £19.5m for a GP Health Service, and funding for GPs to refurbish their estates, have already been delivered.

A Department of Health spokesperson said the increased health funding and staffing in the Forward View was in the process of being delivered and would “improve patient safety” and allow GPs to “give even higher standards of care”.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “GPs play a vital role. This is why we have launched a £500m action plan with a range of measures to tackle the concerns raised – boosting  GP numbers, investing in better premises and strengthening the wider healthcare workforce, including the recruitment of an extra 3,000 mental health therapists.”

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