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GP fatigue endangering patient safety, RCGP warns

GP fatigue is in danger of jeopardising patient safety on a ‘widespread scale’ unless urgent action is taken, the RCGP has warned.

It says in a statement today that there are dangers of medication errors and mistaken patient identity if there continues to be ‘unrelenting and increasing workload pressures’.

The statement comes after Pulse revealed that almost half of all GPs are at high risk of burnout, while NHS England has been cutting GP occupational health services.

The RCGP’s paper, Patient safety implications of general practice workload, calls for regular, mandatory breaks for staff, a mechanism to identify practices under extreme workload pressures and a review of how to reduce pressures through cutting bureaucracy and unnecessary workload.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘GPs will always work in the best interests of their patients – even when they are putting their own health at risk – but ironically this can actually have an adverse effect on patient safety.

‘Few of us would voluntarily board a plane flown by a visibly tired pilot or get on a train where we knew the driver had spent too much time at the controls – yet there are no methods or systems for addressing doctor and staff fatigue in general practice.

She added: ‘GP fatigue is a clear and present danger to patient safety – and we urgently need to find workable solutions that will keep our patients safe now and in the future.’

GPC education, training and workforce subcommittee chair Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, said: ‘GPs want to provide better services and spend time with their patients, but we know that escalating workload, inadequate resourcing of general practice and unnecessary bureaucracy is affecting the delivery of patient care.

‘A recent BMA survey found that nine in ten GPs believe that their heavy workload has negatively impacted on the quality of patient services, which highlights the need for urgent action.’

The RCGP’s consultation paper will be sent to the DH, NHS England, CQC and the GMC among others ‘in a bid to open up a debate about GP fatigue and burnout – and come up with solutions for tackling the problem’.

Readers' comments (20)

  • Vinci Ho

    Give her a bit credit . It is an interesting 'job' of being the chair of RCGP. They tend to go round in circles before they can find their path . The only stubborn one is Master Yoda who actually adores Darth Vader.


    'Learn from my past mistakes.
    It is still time to change the direction before it is too late. Actually, I have not gone astray very far.
    I feel that I am making the right decision now
    as I made a wrong one in the past.'
    Tao Yuanming

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  • The penny might have dropped? Perhaps Maurean has realised she is dealing with a nasty bunch of charlatans. Despite words to the opposite GPs are being repeatedly sold down the river.

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  • Well done Maureen!! We need to stand together. as a profession and show Mr Hunt that he cant dictate terms on us.

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  • It's a turnaround from her comment just a few months ago that "it's never been a better time to be a GP"!

    Truth is she's known all along. They all have. It's just she's doing something now because her hands been forced....

    She even congratulated me hunt a few weeks ago on his "new deal"

    Perhaps the college are panicking the minions will desert them and they will lose their obscene subscription fees?? Hence the need to make a complete turnaround.

    I hate politicians and the college unfortunately are regarded by myself as a political organisation, that unfortunately does not lobby on behalf of the profession, merely it's rank and file feather their own nests for career opportunities, honours etc

    Sorry Maureen, too little far far too late. The grassroots amongst us have been saying this for years....

    Glad I cancelled my membership and moved abroad when I saw what the game really was.....I pity the rest of you.

    Hopefully real movements like gp survival will be more successful at really representing general practice.

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  • So wooly. Her email updates even more tragic. It is now or never and the boat is being missed MB.

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  • Can we for once talk about unrealistic patient/public demand is jeopardising doctor safety, at least as human beings if not professional safety.
    It is always about patient safety. What about our sanity and safety?

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  • @6.20pm Well said. Someone tell the GMC, top-down organisational failings are most risk to patient safety.

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  • Should the RCGP not define [ in broad terms] what is safe ? How many patients should a GP see safely in 24 hours, in a week ? How many hours should a GP work per day, per week?
    Pilots do this very clearly. Why don't we ?
    It amazes me that doctors can work 80 hours with a few hours sleep at weekends and no one does anything. I have done over 700 such weekends, but no one, not the BMA, not RCGP, RCP,RCS, MDU,MPS or GMC ever define how unsafe these hours are.
    Why not.
    The ball is in your court, Maureen. The urgent action should be taken by you.

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  • I am so tired today after working two 12 hour + shifts back to back that I am thinking of not attending a family wedding. It can't be worth it!!!!

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  • Keep on switching those direct debit payments to the RCGP off people! It has started to work.

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