Responding to a survey of GPs by Pulse magazine1 that found more than half were working above safe levels, with the average family doctor working an 11-hour day, Dr Farah Jameel, BMA GP committee executive team lead for workload, said:
“For a number of years, the BMA has been making the case to articulate, recognise and resource the rising workload general practice has been coping with.
“These findings may be striking but are sadly not altogether surprising. They reflect our own research, highlighting the intense pressure GPs are under every day – and the impact that this can have on patient safety. A recent BMA survey found that more than 80% of GPs said the pressure to attend multiple tasks at once meant they were unable to guarantee safe care, while 91% said excessive workload was the main reason the NHS was struggling to recruit enough staff.
“Excessive workload is a problem that has been over a decade in the making, so unfortunately it’s not going to be solved with short-term fixes – and the profession has had enough of sticking plaster solutions.
“Significant new recurrent investment to deliver workforce expansion through the contract agreement will help but more will still need to be done along the lines that we outlined in the BMA’s Quality First work, which focused on the need for all work to be properly resourced and giving practices the confidence to say no to work that isn’t.
“It is also important for the Government, NHS England and other commissioners to continue to work with us to do more to reduce unnecessary bureaucratic workload pressures and manage patient expectations.
“The role of responsible local commissioning is crucial. GPs are being overwhelmed by rising workload, particularly from a growing ageing population with complex health needs, and in this climate, it is crucial that the safe provision of core services to patients remains GPs’ overriding priority.
“Locally commissioned services, where negotiated, need to ensure adequate investments are made recognising the workload necessary to deliver them safely and equitably.
“Increasingly unresourced workload risks undermining the delivery and provision of safe patient care and impacts on the practices sustainability and viability.
“Despite all of this general practice offers a working environment like no other in the NHS. GPs have autonomy, flexibility and they build strong bonds with individual patients and the wider community. Even when facing long waits for appointments, patients continue to highly rate their experiences with their GP.
“Following the contract deal recently agreed in England, and looking ahead to the roll-out of Primary Care Networks in July, the profession is at a turning point. With the planned recruitment of over 20,000 additional practice-based staff, working alongside GPs, and as practices support one another through increasing collaboration, we hope that the current pressure on individual GPs will ease and both encourage more experienced doctors to stay in the profession while also attracting new recruits.
"We cannot allow excessive workload to overshadow all that is good about general practice, for both doctors and patients.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
1. Please contact Pulse magazine for full results.