Scots GPs warn rising workloads may affect patient care

Nine out of 10 Scottish GPs say their workload could have a negative impact on patient care.
Nine out of 10 Scottish GPs say their workload could have a negative impact on patient care.
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Patients could be put at risk by stretched GPs as a stark survey reveals more than nine out of 10 Scottish GPs believe their workload is impacting on patient care.

Doctors leaders warned that GPs faced “simply unsustainable” workloads, following the poll of 900 family doctors in Scotland by the British Medical Association (BMA).

Only 7 per cent of GPs said appointments were long enough, while a third said all patients should be offered more time with their GP.

It comes amid concern over significant recruitment issues, with an estimated 900 GP shortfall by 2020 and reports of GP practices turning away new patients.

Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, said: “This survey reflects the immense pressure that GPs working across Scotland are currently feeling.

“The rising workload is simply unsustainable and something has to change to make general practice in Scotland fit for the future.”

The findings come days after a critical report from the General Medical Council said many trainee doctors were working beyond their competences due to huge workloads.

Critics described the situation as “increasingly dire” and called for a boost to funding for general practice.

Conservative shadow health secretary Donald Cameron said: “This is the latest in a long line of warnings the SNP has received on Scotland’s GP crisis.

“Posts are being left unfilled, patients can’t get quick appointments and projections for future service levels are becoming increasingly dire.”

Margaret Watt, chair of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “Heavy workloads are a problem because doctors do not have sufficient time to diagnose things properly.

“This is not the doctors’ fault, it is the Scottish Government’s fault. Patients and doctors deserve better than that.”

Ministers signed an agreement last month to make doctors the leaders of a team of staff as part of a major shake-up of primary care.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “We are significantly increasing the amount of investment going into primary and GP care – an extra £500 million by the end of this Parliament. However, as we have made consistently clear, we must also reform the way we provide services.

“These reforms, coupled with the additional investment, will help to improve the attractiveness of general practice as a career, reduce workloads, and create a more sustainable workforce.”

CASE STUDY:

Soaring workloads and 12-hour days prompted staff at Riverside Medical Practice in Inverness to take action.

The busy practice, which has 10,000 patients on its rolls, was struggling to retain staff and to get locums on board because of workloads.

The team brought in nurse practitioners to tackle home visits and emergency care, as well as hiring a pharmacist.

Executive partner Dr Iain Kennedy said: “Workload is a massive issue for Scottish GPs and it was a very big issue for us.

“We have had to work very hard to get it to a manageable level.

“We have had significant issues with recruitment and retention of staff.

“Doctors left because they found the pace too much and locums were reluctant to come and work for us because it was so busy.”