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Independents' Day

Revealed: 11-hour days, 41 daily contacts and half of GPs working unsafe levels

Exclusive More than half of GPs say they are working above safe limits, on average completing 11-hour days and dealing with a third more patients than they say they should be, findings from Pulse’s major workload survey reveal.

Full-time family doctors are on average dealing with 41 patients in a day – when GPs said the safe limit should be 30, according to Pulse’s survey of 1,681 UK GPs.

Some are seeing far higher numbers of patients – around one in ten deal with 60 patients or more in a day.

Meanwhile, they reported the intensity of work was high, with GPs saying 29% of their patient contacts – a mixture of face-to-face, phone, online appointments and home visits – were ‘very complex’, and 37% were ‘fairly complex’.

GP leaders said the findings showed the profession ‘was working far beyond their capacity’ and warned the level of workload was affecting GPs' own health and posing a risk to patient safety.

Pulse asked GPs to provide details about their day spent in practice on Monday 11 February to reveal the workload pressures facing the profession.

The results found GPs’ 11-hour average working day comprises eight hours of doing clinical work, alongside three hours of administrative duties.

Around 51% of GPs said they were working beyond safe levels. 

The majority of respondents said it was a typical day of work for them, and some said they had made errors due to the volume of tasks they completed.

One GP who took part in the survey said: ‘By lunchtime I felt on the edge and risked missing urgent tasks and contacts, thus affecting patient safety. I did miss the fact that a patient I had tried to contact earlier in the day had called back, so I didn’t call her back before the surgery closed.’

Dr Matt Mayer, former BMA GP Committee workload policy lead, said: ‘The results of the survey done by Pulse are concerning, and confirm GPs are working far beyond their capacity.

‘GPs currently are making themselves ill in this job, and it isn’t sustainable.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘In my own practice recently, I had a 12-hour day and 100 patient contacts – GPs across the UK will tell similar stories.’

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘We already know that general practice is under pressure which is why investment in local doctors and community services is increasing by £4.5billion, helping fund an army of 20,000 more staff to support GP practices as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

‘But we are also aware that almost nine out of 10 salaried GPs currently work part time.’

The findings follow a recent report on doctors' mental health from the BMA, which found nearly nine out of 10 GP partners are at high or very high risk of burnout.

BBC’s Panorama is reporting Pulse's survey results and investigating patient safety, workload and GP recruitment in its film ‘GPs: Why Can’t I Get An Appointment?’ on BBC One, 7.30pm, 8th May.

Additional reporting by Karl Tomusk


Related images

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Readers' comments (30)

  • Time to do what the rest of the developed World does and start charging Patients part of the cost

    This would reduce workload and increase funding for healthcare.

    Second we need to reduce bureaucracy. Abolishing Appraisal and Revalidation would instantly improve morale and free up the equivalent of 1000wte GPs.

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  • I'm sure the solution will be to have another survery in a years time and hope for different answer

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  • 11 hour days? Oh come on! that is only half an hour beyond standard opening times! As a Partner I did 7am to 9pm often, and saw others doing this to (not counting outside evening events like Rep meetings!)

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  • So another survey that informs us what those at the coal face already knew?

    See the usual NHS E tripe already issued on BBC Breakfast this AM regarding more in training etc etc

    Too little to late and just waiting confirmation figures regarding going 1/2 time ASAP and 0 time probably fairly soon after.

    Been in NHS since graduation in 8/86 and never been so keen to leave, 2 kids seen what its done to me and made the sane career choice of something else!

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  • Charges and penalties for DNAs should be brought in for patients.I am doing my blood test results on home. When someone is on holiday you get over 200. The current situation is already unsustainable especially with the current expectations and standards without increasing the work force and funding. Escalating risks for doctors with Gross Negligence Manslaughter charges will just push people to emigrate and do more unnecessary tests and referrals. It is only a matter of time before the system collapses.

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  • ‘BBC’s Panorama is reporting Pulse's survey results and investigating patient safety, workload and GP recruitment in its film ‘GPs: Why Can’t I Get An Appointment?’ on BBC One, 7.30pm, 8th May.’

    Because Communism.

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  • The usual NHS England none of extra support in General Practice.

    What they don't get is that for every extra allied health professional = more work for the GP because they can't take responsibility. Therefore risk and workload is siphoned to the GP.

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  • Eureka !! They still calculated that one GP is there for every 2000 which is nonsense. With 3800 patient we don't have funding even for 2 full time GPs. Research lagging or am I just coloured so my white British patients also need to be punished?

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  • Lifeboat- exactly. We dont need more people ticking boxes then referring to the GP when they run out of options. However when your own leaders vote against defining safe workloads and insisting they are met then what chance do we have

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  • @Big and Small
    The other perhaps more correct argument is
    'because capitalism'.
    If you continue to stoke up demand on a cash limited system it will eventually expire, allowing that majestic white horse of capitalism to ride in and 'rescue the day'. Now I wonder who's been in charge of the country for the last 9 years to make this sort of scenario more likely?.
    (I'm not a socialist or communist by the way, just someone who believes in fairness, equality and balance)

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