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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)

  • The Daily Mail is against doctors because Paul Dacre was rebuffed by a medical student at Leeds University.

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  • Where I work, it is impossible to contact any local GP surgery at lunchtime, and most have at least one half day. Whilst I fully respect the need for GPs to not run surgeries 24/7, to concentrate on their other priorities, I can't understand why they can't continue to ask a receptionist to answer the phone

    It is very frustrating when you need to contact a practice about a specific issue to be unable to even leave a message asking for the GP to call you back at their convenience.

    Email correspondence with primary care is completely ineffective, so there is a real issue underlying the headline here

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  • The story about Paul Dacre being given the elbow at Leeds is probably right - I heard it was a rugby player -but you don't see them getting a slagging in the Daily Fail .

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  • " there is a real issue underlying the headline here"

    What complete nonsense, the article is full of the usual media lies.

    The issues are very very simple. GP's are able to provide what is funded for. Virtually all GP's provide well above that, effectively funding those services from their personal pockets.

    Articles such as this destroy what is remaining of the good will. I suspect increasingly GP's will provide what is funded for. The basic GMS ( or even PMS) contract doesn't come near to providing the level of cover people want.
    And again we'll end up talking about want vs need vs what is actually funded for.

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  • This comment has been deleted by the moderator.

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  • Paul Dacre was declined by the rugby player because he has offensive body odour and halitosis . His favourite remark to defenceless interns is " do not resist me , my darling" See Private Eye .

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  • I looked it up and found it on New Statesman ; Ugh what a creep .

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  • Paul Dacre is an unpleasant character...

    ... but why is there no obligation to answer the phone within core hours. Surely someone could cover while the receptionist is on his/her lunchbreak. A lot of surgeries have two staff on the desk, and in real life, most small firms would quite reasonably expect their staff to stagger their breaks. Otherwise they'd go out of business.

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  • I am sick and tired of the constant bashing. I start my work at 7 am and finish at 6 pm . I get to eat my sandwich while actioning blood results if I am lucky . My surgery doesn't close for lunch break. well done Daily Fail you are making my decision to leave the NHS and to move abroad even easier.

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  • leaving messages and phone back at a GP's convenience?!?!?
    On top of the fixed appts, home visits, admin, to then phone somebody back, usually when their phone goes unanswered and we're the ones made to chase after somebody - what a waste of time, for the peanuts we get for such effort!

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