97% of GPs face 'intense' workload as consultation complexity rises

97% of UK GPs say their workload is now 'intense' as patient consultations have become ever more complex, a BMA survey of 18,757 GPs has found.

Dr Buckman: general practice has undergone a ‘huge change’ since last survey
Dr Buckman: general practice has undergone a ‘huge change’ since last survey

In its biggest survey of GP opinion since 2007, the BMA found that 97% of GPs describe their workload as 'intense'. 

It also revealed that 88% of GPs think workload has become more intense in the past five years, with 84% saying patient consultations have become more complex.

But the survey did not suggest that GPs were suffering increased work-related stress as a result.

It found that two-thirds of GPs said their work-related stress is 'heavy but manageable' while 11% said its ‘unmanageable’. These results are broadly similar to data from 2007, the survey said.

The survey found an increase in satisfaction among GPs, with most GPs now ‘satisfied’ with their work.  

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said general practice has undergone a ‘huge change’ since a survey on this scale was last carried out.

‘This is shown clearly by the belief among the vast majority of GPs that the nature of their work has become more complex and intense,' he said.

‘Much of the work we do now, such as looking after people with diabetes, used to be done in hospital and even though it’s work we want to do... it has made it harder to fit a consultation into a 10-minute time slot and it can make it more difficult to deal with surges in demand.’

A total of 90% of GPs said the independent contractor status of GPs should be maintained, with 78% supporting the continuation of a UK-wide GMS contract. Although many GPs previously believed QOF was over-funded relative to practice income, 57% of GPs now thought the QOF should continue to represent the existing proportion (approximately 15%) of the GMS contract value. But many said changes or additions to QOF indicators should be implemented every two (31%) or three years (42%) to allow for practice planning.

The majority of GPs (54%) said their earnings were ‘about fair’, although 72% said they expected their income to decrease between April 2011 and March 2012.  However, there were differences according to contractual status, with most GP partners expecting a decrease in income with sessional GPs expecting their income to remain stable.

Health Bill
A total of 84% of GPs said they were not an ‘active member’ of a clinical commissioning group (CCG), with half of these saying they had no intention of being represented in a CCG in the future. One-third of respondents said they were ‘extremely concerned’ at potential conflicts of interest as GPs become commissioners and providers, while 75% disagreed with proposals to link practice income with the financial performance of CCGs.

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