GPs' first priority must be their own health, warns former RCGP chair

GPs must put maintaining their own health above caring for patients and running their practices, former RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada has warned.

Dr Clare Gerada (Photo: Pete Hill)
Dr Clare Gerada (Photo: Pete Hill)

Dr Gerada told the Londonwide LMCs conference on Thursday that GPs should put their own health ahead of patients to avoid burnout.

‘You are the most important person to you,' Dr Gerada told GPs at the conference. 'You have to look after yourself first, your practice team second, and your patients third.’

The plea came after more than double the number of GPs presented to the newly-opened GP Health Service in its first month. The GP Health Service - run by Dr Gerada's Hurley Clinic Partnership - treated more doctors in its first month than the Practitioner Health Programme, which operates across London, treated in a year.

The former chair of the RCGP said the numbers prove the need for a mental health service, but added doctors are quick to recover once they receive care.

Read more: What is the GP Health Service?

A survey by the BMA earlier this year reported that 84% of GPs say excessive workload is preventing safe delivery of care. Some 78% felt that their workload did not allow them adequate time to keep up to date with continuing professional development.

GPonline reported earlier this year that GPs in England deliver around 1m appointments per week over the limit the BMA believes is safe.

Dr Gerada said: ‘GPs say I don’t think I’m ill enough for your service...and then they burst into tears.’ She warned that consistently working more than one extra hour a day, or working on scheduled days off are unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Gerada called for a limit on the number of patients GPs see a week to avoid ‘supermarket medicine’. ‘Nobody else in the health service does more face-to-face contact time with patients than GPs. We need introduce a safe, empathic limit.’

‘There’s a big pressure to think you have to change the system,’ she said, ‘but it’s not for you to sort out the underfunding of the NHS.’

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