BMA demands survey to quantify GP workload and improve patient safety

Delegates at the 2016 ARM have demanded that the BMA undertakes an immediate analysis of the GP workforce to define the safe limits of working in general practice and preserve patient safety.

Dr Farah Jameel: proposed motion at ARM
Dr Farah Jameel: proposed motion at ARM

The motion for the ‘long overdue’ survey was unanimously approved by BMA members after GPs raised patient safety concerns as GP workload remain largely unknown. The last survey of the workforce was undertaken a decade ago in 2006/07.

Proposing the motion, Dr Farah Jameel said it was essential to collect robust data to recognise what is safe and sustainable for general practice.

‘NHS England published its GP Forward View in April this year – supposedly a roadmap to dealing with the crisis in General Practice,’ she said.

GP workload

‘But where is the up-to-date evidence that explains the causes of this pressure on general practice? How many consultations are carried out each week? What about complexity of cases? Are patients more demanding? The evidence simply doesn’t exist.’

The National Audit Office (NAO) has called for NHS England to improve the data it collects on GP demand, she added.

A 2015 NAO report said: ‘The Department of Health and NHS England are working to improve access, but are making decisions without fully understanding either the demand for services or the capacity of the current system.’

Dr Jameel added: ‘Increasing activity in general practice is largely un-resourced because there’s no data to help policy makers match resource GPs desperately need to meet demand. Two out of three GPs have significant work-related stress. We legislate to prevent lorry driver and pilot fatigue, but not doctor fatigue.

Working hours

‘GPs spending 11 hours non-stop is not sustainable, we need to be able to say no – this is not safe. We need immediate workload limits. Inappropriate, unfunded, and excessive workload has to stop.’

A similar survey ran last year in Northern Ireland had shown ‘dramatic changes’, Dr Krishna Kasaraneni told GPonline.

He said: ‘Commissioning a survey will help us see that patients can’t access GP services. It’s time for us to show how our workload is changing and say this is how to fix it.

‘The questions will ask how much time they're spending in front of patients – the amount of time spent with patients is decreasing as bureaucracy is rising. Patients aren’t getting more out of their GP as GPs are getting busier.

‘We’d rather be seeing patients than filling in forms. We need to help them appreciate that while the government keeps trying to make changes they're putting more steps in our way to help patients.’

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This is about safety in general practice. We don’t have measurable records of what we do. This is a long overdue action we need to take.’

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