According to the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), an increase in the work load of GPs and fatigue is putting patients at risk.
The RCGP reports that soaring patient numbers coupled with diminishing resources are pushing dedicated GPs to their limits. There is considerable potential for patient harm, such as medication errors and mistaken patient identity.
In the RCGP’s Consultation Paper published on 29 July 2015, radical proposals have been made to protect the wellbeing of GPs in order to ensure that safe care is provided to patients.
These proposals include:
- Regular, mandatory breaks for staff to minimise the possibility of errors
- A mechanism to identify practices under extreme workload pressures
- A full-scale review of how daily pressures in general practice can be reduced, including ways in which existing bureaucracy and unnecessary workload can be safely cut.
According to estimates commissioned by the RCGP, the number of GP consultations in England rose from 303 million in 2008/09 to 361 million in 2013/14, an increase of 19%.
However in 2013, there were 1,481 patients for every GP. This has undoubtedly resulted in GPs becoming increasingly overworked and exhausted, which is a major risk to patient safety.
GPs spend their time doing other activities such as appraisals, commissioning and administering inspection visits which can take up a lot of time and energy, resulting in working additional hours in the evenings and weekends. The RCOG estimates that an additional 120 hours per GP (per annum) could be spent on frontline patient care by reducing unnecessary bureaucracy.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP said:
“GPs will always work in the best interests of their patients – even when they are putting their own health at risk – but ironically this can actually have an adverse effect on patient safety.
“With waiting times to see a GP now a matter of national concern, and patients in some areas of the country facing waits of up to a month to see their family doctor or practice nurse, our members are routinely working 11 and 12 hour days in surgery to try and accommodate.
You might be able to do this for a short time, but when it becomes the norm, mistakes are going to be made.”
Having dealt with a number of claims against GPs, Moosa-Duke Solicitors welcomes the new proposals. It is hoped that the changes will result in better patient care.