Dr Brian Balmer, who is leading the group in the GPC that is developing the guidance, told the English LMCs conference it would help practices to ‘make sensible decisions’.
'Everyone says there should be a limit but when you ask where the limit should be that’s the difficulty,’ Dr Balmer said during a debate on workload limits.
‘But I believe its possible. It cannot be done by individual practices, it has to be done by the system allied with patients and limiting demand. If you speak to patients they understand doctors shouldn’t be knackered. If you speak to commissioners they understand that doctors shouldn't be too tired.’
GPC member Dr Matt Mayer confirmed that the guidance was expected to be ready in early 2018.
The LMCs conference backed a motion that called on NHS England and the government to help make patients aware of the importance of reducing GP workloads to safe levels. However it rejected part of the motion that wanted to limit the number of hours GPs work to 12 a day.
Dr Sarah McSorely from Leeds LMC who proposed the motion said that workload pressures were the ‘number one pressure’ in primary care at the moment.
‘An overworked doctor becomes an overtired doctor and overtired doctors make potentially dangerous decisions,’ she said.
‘The intensity and complexity of what a GP does has dramatically increased without the funding and workforce to match. That leaves fewer doctors trying to stretch themselves over longer periods just to cope with the daily workload.
‘We are not machines, we are human beings and none of us should be working beyond 12 hours a day.’
However Dr Shaba Nabi from Avon LMCs said she would not want to see any workload limit imposed based on the number of hours a GP worked.
'If you want to cap something, don’t cap the hours we work, cap the face-to-face patient contacts we have because that’s what sucks the life out of us,’ she said. ‘It is nonsensical to talk about policing the number of hours we work. We all do different roles.’
She added that a cap on the number of hours would limit GPs’ flexibility and autonomy and have dire consequences for out-of-hours services as many GPs work these shifts following in-hours work.