Huge BMA poll highlights chronic pressure on GPs and NHS 'culture of blame'

Nine out of 10 GPs say inadequate NHS resources are undermining the quality and safety of patient care, according to a BMA report that highlights chronic pressure on doctors amid a 'persistent culture of blame'.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul (Photo: JH Lancy)
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul (Photo: JH Lancy)

The report, backed by a huge BMA poll of almost 8,000 doctors , found that 78% of respondents felt NHS resources were inadequate and significantly affected the quality and safety of patient services. Among the more than 2,300 GPs responding to the poll, 87% said inadequate resources were undermining patient care.

Three quarters of GPs - and 84% of partners - work significantly more hours per week than they are contracted to provide, the BMA poll found, compared with 48% of hospital consultants.

Nine out of 10 GPs highlighted excessive workload pressure as a key reason why the NHS struggled to retain staff, and GPs were 'more likely to identify being pressured to attend to multiple tasks, lack of time with patients and fatigue from working long hours as factors affecting their ability to provide safe care' than other doctors, the report found.

Consultation cap

Some 72% of GPs responding to the poll highlighted a cap on consultations as a measure that would improve their day-to-day working life.

The BMA report warned the NHS was 'facing a recruitment and retention crisis, which if not tackled will make it virtually impossible for health services to continue to meet the needs of patients'.

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It also found that 51% of GPs - and 55% of all doctors - fear being blamed unfairly for errors caused by pressures or system failures in their workplace - findings that the report warned 'show clearly that a culture of fear and blame persists in the NHS'.

It added: 'This is a risk for patient safety, prevents people from being open about errors, learning from mistakes and contributing to continual improvement. The recent case of Dr. Bawa-Garba reinforced perceptions amongst doctors that they will be held accountable for wider systemic failings.'

Impoverished NHS

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'It is vital that the government and policymakers heed the views of all doctors who provide care at the coalface; they are in the best place to know the problems the NHS faces on a daily, hourly basis.

'They know the scale of impoverishment in the NHS is staggering. They are working in a culture which has improved little since the publication of the Francis and Berwick reports following the tragedies in Mid-Staffordshire five years ago.

'Doctors experience challenges of trying to provide safe patient care when there is poor staffing, gaps in rotas, lack of adequate facilities and where a persistent culture of blame stifles learning and improvement.'

The report is part of a BMA project entitled Caring, Supportive, Collaborative, which aims to identify and find solutions to challenges facing the NHS and its doctors.

A DHSC spokesperson said: 'We are committed to supporting and listening to hardworking NHS staff, which is why the secretary of state recently launched an online platform where they can give their views and voice concerns.

'These will inform the Long Term Plan for the NHS, to support staff to improve care and patient safety, backed by government investment that will see an extra £56m a day invested into the health service by 2023/24.

'To help improve the work-life balance of existing staff we are expanding flexible working and e-rostering, and to tackle inequality we have commissioned our own data on ethnicity pay to identify gaps ahead of announcing robust actions soon.'

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