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GPs struggle to make eye contact with patients

By Nigel Praities

Exclusive: GPs are so busy with administrative red tape during a consultation thousands are unable to spend enough time making eye contact with patients, a Pulse investigation this week reveals.



A survey of more than 600 GPs finds almost 40% say they do not feel able to make enough eye contact as GP are deluged with red tape.

Although the survey finds 55% of GPs have increased their appointment times in the past five years-spending an average of 11 minutes per consultation- GPs say they spend around a third of this time on administration and just over half addressing patients' needs.

They claim appointment times need to increase further – up to 14 minutes on average - but GP leaders are suggesting GPs should now be offering appointments of at least 15 minutes.

The survey also reveals worrying signs the bureaucratic burden on GPs is affecting the doctor-patient relationship.

Dr Robert Baker, a GP in Swanage, Dorset, said: ‘I could really do with being split in two to manage the prevention and curative aspects of my job both of which I am expected to address - for multiple systems - in 10 minutes.'

‘The demands of the patient's agenda, Government agenda and the medicolegal requirement that everything I hear say and do must be meticulously recorded makes for an extremely crowded consultation and working day, frequently spilling into evenings and weekends,' he said.

RCGP chair Professor Steve Field said GPs should use nurses and healthcare assistants to address increase appointment times to 15 or 20 minutes.

‘GPs will need to spend more time – particularly with the ageing population who have a number of different illnesses at the same time, but in order to do that it is right that GPs will have to have longer consultations,' he said.

Half of GPs in our survey say their local PCT or LHB does not actively support their practice in offering high-quality patient care, and 27% say they are ‘actively obstructive' in this aim.

A DH Spokesperson said: ‘Practices are independent bodies, run by self-employed contractors, and it is up to them to organise their services to meet the needs of their patients. This could include longer consultation times where necessary.'

How long should GP consultations be?

5 – 8 minutes 0%
8 – 10 minutes 4%
10-15 mins 60%
>15 mins 35%

Source: Survey of 602 GPs

Pulse investigation: What's stopping GPs from looking their patients in the eye?

Read the full Pulse investigation here.

Almost 40% of GPs said they did not feel able to make sufficient eye contact during consultations Almost 40% of GPs said they did not feel able to make sufficient eye contact during consultations Full survey results

Download the full survey results in an Excel spreadsheet here.

Consultation survey results

Consultation survey results

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