Culture of fear adds to pressure on GPs to work long hours

The fear of being sued is affecting GPs' health and confidence and is making them work longer hours to keep up with demand, according to a poll by medico-legal experts.

Working hours: fear of litigation adding to pressure on GPs to work long hours
Working hours: fear of litigation adding to pressure on GPs to work long hours

Two-thirds of 600 GPs surveyed by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) said they were ‘fearful of being sued by a patient’ and of those, 59% said they often worked beyond contracted hours to cope with patient expectation.

But worrying about complaints also meant that GPs were more likely to keep detailed medical records, ensure follow-up arrangements were in place and conduct more investigations.

‘It is absolutely right that GPs should ensure they follow correct processes and be open if things go wrong, but we don’t want GPs to be in a situation where they have to change their practice and work longer hours due to a fear of litigation,’ said MPS medical director Dr Rob Hendry.

Recruitment struggle

The fear of being accused of clinical negligence could also be hampering recruitment and retention efforts, the MPS says.

‘We know England has a target to recruit 8,000 new full-time equivalent GPs by 2020 and this could be a struggle,’ said Dr Hendry.

‘If we are to recruit and retain GPs then we must tackle the culture of fear that GPs are currently working in.’

The MPS has warned that GPs could face two lawsuits over the course of their career.

‘Mistakes happen; no one is infallible. While it may be true that doctors should expect to receive and act upon more complaints about their care, it cannot be right that they work in fear of litigation,' Dr Hendry added.

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