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Some GPs are working over 80 hours per week, health secretary reveals

A small number of Scottish GPs work between 80-89 hours a week, Government data has revealed.

The figures, based on the Primary Care Workforce Survey 2017, showed that these were the estimated 'average' working hours for four GPs.

Meanwhile, 21 GPs said they worked 70 to 79 hours per week and 50 GPs said they worked 60-69 hours per week.

More commonly, GPs worked up to 39 hours per week (61%) or 40-49 hours (30%), although 8% reported working 50-59 hours a week on average.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat Party, which unveiled the figures via a parliamentary question, said they showed GPs covering for rising demand and staff vacancies by working long days.

Data, also supplied by the Scottish Government, showed that just 92 out of 233 vacancies had been filled in the last six months up to 31 August 2017.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: 'These new figures provide another worrying snapshot of the pressures that GPs across Scotland are under.

'Working up to 90 hours in a week is the equivalent of seven consecutive 12.5 hour days. GPs were asked to calculate how many hours they worked in a 'typical' week so there is a real danger that there are instances of GPs working even longer hours.

'The SNP are working doctors until they drop. GPs work incredibly hard but they will be the first to tell you that excessive hours risk patient safety.'

Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said: 'The ground breaking new GP contract for Scotland – jointly designed and agreed with the British Medical Association – will help ensure that GPs are able to spend more time with patients and less time on bureaucracy. It will help reduce doctors’ overall workload and make general practice an even more attractive career prospect by allowing GPs to focus on the patients who need them most.'

It comes as official Scottish GP workforce data published last month revealed a 4% decline in full-time equivalent GPs over the last five years.

At the same time, the number of practices reporting a GP vacancy grew to nearly a quarter (24%), having stood at 22% in 2015 and 9% in 2013.

And it also showed over a third (36%) of GPs in Scotland were aged 50 years or over.

The BMA's Scottish GP committee has said it hopes changes to GP practice terms and conditions will help to improve the workforce situation.

It has negotiated a new GP contract for Scotland, which started from 1 April and will be rolled out via a three-year transition.

This will see a new funding formula underpinned by additional investment and a guarantee no GP will earn under £80,430.

The Scottish Government has announced plans to invest £100m this year to implement the contract.

Data in full

Average Scottish GP working hours

Estimated average GP hours worked per weekHeadcount (N)Percentage (%)

Up to 39

2,269

61

40 to 49

1,109

30

50 to 59

296

8

60 to 69

50

1

70 to 79

21

1

80 to 89

4

<1

90 and over

0

0

TOTAL

3,749

100

GP posts vacant for over six months reported by responding practices for year ending 31 August 2017, by NHS Board area

NHS BoardUnfilled VacanciesHeadcount (N)Filled VacanciesHeadcount (N)TOTAL VACANCIESHeadcount (N)

NHS Ayrshire & Arran

12

12

24

NHS Borders

0

2

2

NHS Dumfries & Galloway

10

4

14

NHS Fife

19

7

26

NHS Forth Valley

11

3

14

NHS Grampian

12

1

13

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde

11

12

23

NHS Highland

12

8

20

NHS Lanarkshire

13

10

23

NHS Lothian

19

16

35

NHS Orkney

0

1

1

NHS Shetland

5

3

8

NHS Tayside

13

8

21

NHS Western Isles

4

5

9

SCOTLAND

141

92

233

Source: Scottish Government/Primary Care Workforce Survey 2017

Readers' comments (7)

  • So 91% of GPs work less than 50 hours a week and 61% work less than 40 hours a week. Bear in mind these figures are self-reported, and most people don't underestimate how many hours they work...

    This does not exactly represent widespread overload.The equivalent figures for hospital consultants are far higher - with 45% of consultant physicians working more than 50 hours a week.

    General practice remains a profession where it is far easier to achieve a sensible work-life balance. And yet you still moan and run nationwide campaigns about 'workload dumps'. Its hard to justify this based on these figures

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  • Dear oncehadavocation,
    while it might be easier to choose how many days or sessions you work as a GP, the survey may well reflect the current state of the job. To quote a previous post from another GP on here...

    'I am incapable of doing more than 6 sessions a week without major ramifications on what little sense of wellbeing I have remaining but these 3 full days are pretty much 11-11.5 hours long which is not too far from full time.
    I have made a few lifestyle changes to fit in with the lowered income; Aldi own-brand vodka, street prostitutes and roll-ups instead of Dom Perignon, high class escorts and Peter Stuyvesant King Size. Such is life.....(/s).'

    3 days at close to 40 hrs as a salaried GP may yield

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  • £2500 - £3000 a month after indemnity etc

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  • "Why are ALL GPs not doing this? Lazy workshop sods" said Mr Hunt on reading this report.

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  • oncehadavocation. Like your name but not your appraisal. The figures are not easily interpreted. We know that a growing number of GPs are part time (male and female) and if there is a high percentage of half time GPs working 30 hours each week this would also suggest a problem. In addition, in the highlands due to rurality the average list size is much less than in England. Finally there is a different between hours worked and work load. Over the past 25 years the number of hours that I am oncall has decreased but the number of hours I am face to face with patients and my work load intensity have increased significantly so that on a regular basis I feel I am providing an unsafe service.

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  • AlanAlmond

    oncehadavocation | Hospital Doctor10 Apr 2018 10:40am
    It’s not numbers of hours worked, it’s the intensity of the work
    I can jog for hour after hour but don’t ask me to sprint all day and expect me to be ok.

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  • Ex-GP - exactly and those in the know such as medical students and junior doctors who've had a taste of GP will continue to steer clear in general. Oncehadavocation can of course retrain as a GP at leisure.

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