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RCGP hits back at GP 'four-hour lunch' claims

The RCGP has hit back at claims that GP surgeries worsen the A&E crisis by taking ‘four-hour lunches’ and closing whole afternoons while ‘doing private work’.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said the report in the Daily Mail, based on an investigation of GP opening times and featuring on today’s front page, ‘do not reflect’ GPs’ reality of working 11-hour days to cover soaring consultation rates.

Dr Baker was responding to claims made in the newspaper article that ‘a quarter of surgeries shut for at least one half-day during the week while others close for up to four and a half hours for lunch’, illustrated with a relaxed looking model posing as a doctor leaning back in his chair with the caption ‘me time’ underneath.

The story also said: ‘It is not clear why doctors need to shut their surgeries on a weekday. Some may use the time to catch up on paperwork, others may earn additional cash attending meetings, doing shifts as locums or carrying out private work.’

The Daily Mail quoted the Patient Association as saying that patients ‘will continue to present themselves at the already overstretched A&E if they are not able to access GP services when they need it’.

But Dr Baker said: ‘Almost half of all GPs now work 11 hours a day in surgery and the majority conduct between 40-60 patient consultations on a daily basis.’

‘The majority of practices are open from 8am-6.30pm. Most GP practices are run by small teams and practices might close for short periods of time to allow staff to have a break but cover is always provided.’ 

‘There might be times when practices need to close for staff training or meetings but again, cover will always be provided. If practices are small or singlehanded and they are providing care to patients for over 52 hours a week, it would not be unreasonable for them not to offer surgery on one afternoon in the interests of patient safety.’

‘It is also important to remember that even when practices are closed, GPs are still working and carrying out phone consultations and home visits.’

She added that to improve patient access the Government has to invest in general practice, as the service was now ‘teetering on the brink of collapse’.

She said: ‘The only solution is for the four governments of the UK to invest properly in general practice so that we can provide more GPs, more consultations and longer consultations for all our patients.’

A spokesperson for NHS England, said: ‘GP practices must open for their contracted hours. This is non-negotiable. However, on the rare occasions when this isn’t possible, practices should ensure alternative arrangements are in place for patients.’

Readers' comments (28)

  • People deserve to get what they pay for and no more.

    So either pay for/ fund us properly or go away and get what you pay for.

    DM has a case to answer for slander and when people start to die because there are not enoughGps it should be held responsible in the eyes of the law

    Bring on fee for service model. Those at the top, listen to the grass roots

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  • So. Has the RCGP spoken directly to the organisations in the article who continue to be misinformed and damage the profession. We need to ally ourselves with these people and get them onside. If it is only the RCGP beating the drum we will continue to be hammered in the media.

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  • LMCs should confront any Practice which fails to comply with contractural hours. With regard to all those man-hours lost by GPs sitting in CCG meetings, do I detect a deafening silence from your readers?

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  • Dr Mustapha Tahir

    The article by the Daily Mail actually made me laugh. I don't think we should be taking them serious anymore. In fact even the news review team on Sky News found it hilarious. I just wonder if the general British public take the Daily Mail serious anymore.

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  • Sadly people do believe what they read in the papers - they buy papers that support their own particular biases so these stories reinforce those biases. We can take heart in the fact that paper sales are falling and the Daily Mail does have rivals, although coverage of general practice in The Independent isn't usually too good. Who is doing the drip drip drip of positive stories to the media, and on line sources of news and opinion?

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  • Even The Times has taken to GP bashing on a fairly regular basis.

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  • GP bashing has got to such a stage that I'm concerned that some people will not attend when required. Also the press and HMG have been so successful at portraying a poor service delivered by rich lazy doctors that they cannot give an inch or face up to the facts that funding is falling and we are unable to keep up with demand and complexity.

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  • The article is a joke. I used to work from 8:30 through to at least 8 pm most evenings. When I was not seeing patients in the consulting room, I was either on home visits, PCT meetings in one form or another or doing paperwork and going through results etc. And all for an ever increasing workload, decreasing pay, worsening pension outlook and plenty of GP bashing in the media. My patients were lovely and staff were wonderful. I have now moved abroad. I still work hard without the Gp bashing from the media and the constant efforts of the government to demoralise and dismantle the NHS. I do miss my staff, my colleagues and patients and wish you all well.

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  • There seems a touch of decide and conquer amongst GP and hospital colleagues. Perhaps people posting here don't appreciate that we have house visits /admin work / meetings (oh and even maybe lunch!)
    Also do they appreciate how difficult it is to contact colleagues in hospital either by phone of emails?

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  • Speaking as a pharmacist who used to regularly work 16 hour shifts with no break (and not even a desk to sit at to hastily eat a sandwich), I can sympathize with GPs who are working long hours. I always greatly envied the ability of my surgery to have "training days" etc- If I ever needed a Drs appointment, or to leave the pharmacy for a meeting, or was even sick, I had to make sure that I knew in plenty of time to be able to arrange a locum.

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