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The waiting game

Nearly 1,400 in support of petition for GP workload cap following doctor suicide

A GP has started a petition calling for safe working hours in general practice, following the suicide of Dr George Porteous from Lockerbie Medical Centre, Scotland, in September.

The petition was created on world mental health day, 10 October, and has already gained 1,388 signatures in support of a workload cap.

North London GP Dr Anshumen Bhagat, who started the petition, said the lack of safe working hours is the main cause of the GP shortage in the UK, due to burnout, GPs leaving the profession and fewer doctors coming into general practice.

It also follows reports that 430 doctors died by suicide over the past four years, which Dr Bhagat said ‘has to stop’.

The petition has called for several measures to help with workload and the mental health of GPs, including:

  • A new Government-funded study into the maximum number of sessions a GP should work per week/month that is sustainable and safe. This will assess the physical and mental strain on GPs today;
  • Introduce an increased 15-minute appointment time, to enable GPs to treat patients effectively;
  • A new general practice working time directive (GPWTD) to introduce a maximum working week/month;
  • A new promise from the Government to recruit an updated number of GPs based on that GPWTD;
  • An official channel for NHS GPs who are completing the GPWTD role to access and apply for non-patient-facing roles in the NHS and beyond, to combat fatigue.

Dr Bhagat said: ‘The incredible response to this petition from UK GPs who are struggling on the front line confirms the urgency for change, before it is too late.’

‘The comments left by GPs are what I hear in GP circles, on GP forums and when speaking to my colleagues all the time – this is real – general practice is in real trouble if major change doesn’t come soon.’

‘A working hours directive for GPs is a bare minimum of what is required to make the working life of a GP safe and sustainable. The time to act is now. We can’t lose any more GPs. We can’t lose any more lives.’

Dr Bhagat, who runs private GP home visiting service GP Delivered Quick (GPDQ), has also submitted an urgent request to meet with the health secretary Matt Hancock and public health minister Steve Brine to discuss change to GP working hours.

It follows calls for workload ‘black alerts’ by the BMA in March this year, which would see GP practices that face unsustainable workload divert or cancel all routine appointments.

The guidance, prepared by the GP Committee, suggested that 25 routine appointments a day were a ‘safe’ limit for individual GPs, whereas 35 were ‘unsafe’.

Readers' comments (19)

  • I don't think the government will ever do this as who mops up all the extra work? There is no extra capacity or money. We desperately need a cap on maximum patient contacts per day but the government have no interest in bringing this in. We have to force their hand and threaten strike action as our calls for change have been falling on deaf ears for years.

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  • Strike action has already been shown to be ineffective . Stop being a Martyr and resign
    find other work and have a life . As long as Gp consider it more important to " put the oxygen mask on everyone else before themselves" nothing will change as change starts with the victim deciding not to be a victim anymore

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  • BMA and their legal team should take the DoH to court on the basis of unfair and unrealistic contracts for GPs providing evidence of unreasonable work-load detrimental to health of the provider and unsafe clinical practice.

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  • 70 consults with a prescriber per 1000 patients per week seems to be the accepted number. Any more than that -- optional to treat in house or refer to WIC / A&E. Cost of a GP appointment is £25 WIC charge more than double -- when we are funded like a WIC we can behave like them.

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  • Does anyone have any information relating to the reason for the suicide in this tragic case?

    The government do not care, and neither do the public.Have a look at's review of Lockerbie Medical Practice; November 2017, a verbatim quote from "a patient" that 9 people found to be helpful:" I pay my tax every month, and my doctor refuses to see me, absolute disgrace".

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  • IDGAF spot on Govt / Public don't care sadly the practices can't do anything about it as demand outstrips supply. Infact I'd go so far as to say negative feedback is an advantage as it means less patients want to register -- RESULT!

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  • After allowing the handback of OOH and the eventually increase in costs and deterioration in service that happened no Government will allow this but our Union should come up with an assessment of a sustainable workload for a whole career not just a week or month

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  • There are alternatives to urgent appointments at GP - ooh, wic, self help, A&E. Routine appointments however often have to be with GP as we are the only ones who can investigate and refer. Black alert therefore just pushes work down the road heaping more pressure on the GPS.

    So in perpetual crisis the answer should be to only see follow ups and those who have already see an urgent care service!

    Oh and never mind the 30-50% of work sorting out the medicolegal ‘bombs’ buried in hospital discharge / ‘handovers’!

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  • What Strike, no one has dared strike let alone face the government over the work issues. Sorry but all my colleagues are pathetic when it comes to campaigning for their own health and working rights.

    I am ready to go onto breakfast TV and give that twat a right bollocking in front of camera as i know he will be a pig ass about it in his usual style. I would love to do what i do in the middle of my own CCG meetings when things are clearly not right. Yes, stick two fingers up at everyone and walk out in the middle of it in protest. Good entertainment at least if nothing else, as no one bloody cares anyway and i just get the satisfaction of doing what people least expected.

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  • We should go private like the dentists. They have a much better quality of life and far better earnings. The government will not respond to the petition. At best they will give some half hearted measures.

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