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Is six sessions a week the new 'full-time' for GPs?

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General practice in the UK has a dilemma, and I feel that I could be part of the problem.

One issue that major political parties concentrated on rior to the election was the number of GPs working in the NHS and how they wanted to increase this. What they were really talking about is the number of appointments available to the general public. Despite the fact that no minimum number of appointments per week per head of practice population exists, the implication is that more GP sessions are needed to meet patient demand.

The demand of patients may not, in fact, be entirely reasonable all the time, or that there are factors that influence demand such as politicians, the media and the need for doctors to meet health-related targets. But putting that aside for now, it’s clear that what the politicians haven’t commented on is how many sessions they expect to get from their thousands of new GPs. Recently a very experienced GP told me that she thought that six sessions per week was the ‘new full-time’ and that anything more was unsustainable in the current workload and climate.

What if part of the issue is that workload pressures mean that GPs actually work fewer hours, creating a shortage of GP appointments, even if there are lots of GPs?

I work six sessions a week. It suits me. I don’t actually need to work anymore than that in a financial sense and, among other things, I find it keeps me fresh and enthusiastic.

However, if what works for me on a personal level is replicated by thousands of GPs nationwide then the overall effect is that of less availability and an increased pressure to recruit and retain GPs. Workload pressures lead to decreased hours, which in turn leads back to workload pressures.

What might be good for the NHS (me working full time) could also be good for my patients. If I worked more than three days a week it would be easier for them to maintain continuity of care with me.

But it may not be good for my health, my sanity and the happiness of my family, especially my young children who are always in bed by the time I get home on the days I do work. I have made choices and sacrifices that mean that I have been able to work less than full time for the last eight years.

What suits the individual GP doesn’t necessarily suit the NHS and the public it serves. Maybe I really am part of the problem.

Dr Samir Dawlatly is a former secretary of the RCGP’s adolescent health group and a GP in Birmingham.

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Readers' comments (20)

  • 6 clinical sessions paid for then one admin session for free and at least one session running the business and maintaining contact with external bodies for free. That is 40 hours plus certainly this is classed as full time.

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  • 6 clinical sessions paid for then one admin session for free and at least one session running the business and maintaining contact with external bodies for free. That is 40 hours plus certainly this is classed as full time.

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  • Over the last few years I've worked exclusively as locum in around 15 practices on a repeated returning basis. Prior to this I was salaried for several years. As far as I can see in your 'average' practice, working over 6 sessions a week on a long term basis isn't viable.

    The reason I mention the number of practices I'm working in is to give weight to my observation that there is considerable variation from one practice to the next concerning intensity of work. There certainly are practices out there where it's perfectly possible to work 9 sessions a week and go home feeling fresh and ready for tomorrow, I have worked in some of them...but believe me they are the exception and not the rule.

    I have read folk on here suggesting that anyone working less than 9 sessions a week is somehow work shy and lazy. So in anticipation of these guys coming on and writing what a bunch of lazy lumps everyone else is...I want to get in early and say...congratulations to you guys for having such a controlled working environment ....but most other folk aren't working in your rose smelling suburb.

    As long as the intensity of work continues to rise...and with the never ending transfer of hospital work into the community this seems certain...we'll continue to be disappointed by the observation that we seem to need an ever increasing number of GPs to cover the same number of old 'full time equivalent' roles.

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  • Over the last few years I've worked exclusively as locum in around 15 practices on a repeated returning basis. Prior to this I was salaried for several years. As far as I can see in your 'average' practice, working over 6 sessions a week on a long term basis isn't viable.

    The reason I mention the number of practices I'm working in is to give weight to my observation that there is considerable variation from one practice to the next concerning intensity of work. There certainly are practices out there where it's perfectly possible to work 9 sessions a week and go home feeling fresh and ready for tomorrow, I have worked in some of them...but believe me they are the exception and not the rule.

    I have read folk on here suggesting that anyone working less than 9 sessions a week is somehow work shy and lazy. So in anticipation of these guys coming on and writing what a bunch of lazy lumps everyone else is...I want to get in early and say...congratulations to you guys for having such a controlled working environment ....but most other folk aren't working in your rose smelling suburb.

    As long as the intensity of work continues to rise...and with the never ending transfer of hospital work into the community this seems certain...we'll continue to be disappointed by the observation that we seem to need an ever increasing number of GPs to cover the same number of old 'full time equivalent' roles.

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  • Yes but isn't it interesting how many of these poor 'burnt out' doctors spend their two days off after slaving for six sessions earning extra cash at the CCG, tearing apart their local DGH and setting up businesses to tender for additional work - with the contracts handed to them by their mates at the CCG. Overworked indeed...

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  • Yes but isn't it interesting how many of these poor 'burnt out' doctors spend their two days off after slaving for six sessions earning extra cash at the CCG, tearing apart their local DGH and setting up businesses to tender for additional work - with the contracts handed to them by their mates at the CCG. Overworked indeed...

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  • Introduce Australian system where you get paid only when you see patients.

    You will then start seeing GP working 12 sessions a week, and they would say they have never heard the word 'burnout' in their lives.

    GP Partners, stop being hypocrites. Many of you have allowed the system to rot during the last 10yrs

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  • Introduce Australian system where you get paid only when you see patients.

    You will then start seeing GP working 12 sessions a week, and they would say they have never heard the word 'burnout' in their lives.

    GP Partners, stop being hypocrites. Many of you have allowed the system to rot during the last 10yrs

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  • 6 sessions is full time for LAZY GP partners, but 9 sessions is full time for Salaried GPs.

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  • 6 sessions is full time for LAZY GP partners, but 9 sessions is full time for Salaried GPs.

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