Depth of GP recruitment and workload crisis laid bare by RCGP poll

The vast majority of GPs are regularly working long hours, struggling to recruit and have too little time with patients, according to an alarming RCGP poll.

A total of 78% of GPs work over their contracted hours at least once or twice a week, according to a survey of more than 1,500 GPs in England commissioned by the college ahead of its 2019 annual conference.

A total of 68% of GPs involved in recruiting found it difficult to hire GPs - with 65% indicating they struggled to employ practice nurses.

Over half (60%) said they did not have enough time to adequately assess patients and more than half (53%) believed that patient safety was compromised because consultations were too short.

GP workforce

Meanwhile, 31% of GPs said they were unlikely to be working in general practice in five years’ time, with only just over half (53%) saying that they were likely to be.

The findings were published as outgoing RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard warned the government against 'vote-winning gimmicks', such as patient access targets. She was expected to tell the conference that reinstating GP access targets ‘could set back general practice 20 years’.

Professor Stokes-Lampard is set to use her final major speech as RCGP chair to ask for more to be done to ensure a sustainable future for the profession.

‘We’re making progress but we’re not there yet. Our members are telling us they are more optimistic, but that the workload is still unmanageable. That many GPs are working unsafe hours and it is taking its toll on their own health and wellbeing. That many are scared about the impact this is having on their patients,’ she is expected to say.

Partners' workload

A recent GPonline opinion poll found that full-time GP partners worked on average 50% more than a standard working week. Meanwhile, the same poll showed showed that salaried GPs and locums' working hours were also well above the basic 37.5 hours.

Professor Stokes-Lampard added that more practitioners would continue to leave the profession without action to support general practice.

‘Yes, we have promises for more investment into general practice… but many GPs are still telling us that running a practice is unsustainable. That they are planning to hand back the keys, and that they plan to leave the profession sooner than they would have done,’ she will say.

England’s NHS lost 576 full-time equivalent (FTE), fully-qualified GPs in the year to June 2019, according to NHS Digital statistics.

Professor Stokes-Lampard will stand down as RCGP chair at the end of her three-year term on Saturday 23 November.

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