Patients assesed via phone call as GP's buckle under pressure workload

Patients are being assessed in three-minute phone calls by GPs before being given face-to-face appointments.


The desperate drive to cut down on demand has been slammed by critics who say doctors cannot properly assess sick patients in a telephone conversation.


Underfunding, erosion of primary care teams and a string of disastrous political projects that have wasted NHS time and money have left GPs on the brink, warns Dr Richard Vautrey.


The BMA’s latest survey demonstrates the enormous pressure that grassroots GPs are facing. It also shows that some of the answers to these problems lie not in political diktats from central government, but in common sense solutions from GPs working in local practices.

The major survey of more than 5,000 GPs across England gives a picture that many GPs will find familiar. More than eight out of 10 believe their current workload is excessive or unmanageable. By region there is little difference between the nine geographical areas, the lowest number of GPs feeling their workload is damaging is 83%, the highest 86%. This shows that every corner of the country is buckling under the same challenges that for far too long have been left to fester.


The lack of investment from successive governments of general practice has been allowed to happen at the same time as rapidly rising demand for services, while staff shortages and more care being transferred into the community have resulted in even more stress within the system.


Eight out of ten GPs believe that workload pressures are either unmanageable or excessive, and are having a direct impact on the quality and safety of the care they deliver to patients, according to a new BMA survey of over 5,000 GPs. Only one in ten describe their workload as manageable and allowing for good and safe quality of care.

In the South East, West Midlands, and Yorkshire and Humberside, nearly nine out of ten GPs reported "unmanageable" levels of workload. GPs outlined a broad range of options to help tackle these problems, such as increased provision of enhanced community nurses to manage vulnerable housebound patients (64%), more help to enable patients to safely self-care (59%) and greater provision of mental health workers (53%) in the community.


Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA GP committee, said the survey demonstrates that GP practices across the country are struggling to provide safe, high-quality patient care because of unmanageable workload.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, says the survey echoes much of what the College has been saying for some time – "the relentlessness of the workload in general practice is a threat to our own health and our patients' safety".


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