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The inexorable rise of GP workload

A landmark study has shown a ‘substantial’ 16% increase in clinical workload since 2007, finds Jamie Kaffash

Primary care in England could be reaching ‘saturation point’, with patients seeing GPs more often and for longer, while workforce numbers struggle to keep pace, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

The largest-ever analysis of GP and nurse consultations shows general practice workload increased by 16% between 2007 and 2014, while patients are seeing their GP 13% more often.

While overall workload has increased, the number of GPs has fallen from 60.9 to 60.6 per 100,000 patients.

The authors of the landmark study said GPs had been warning for years that workload had been increasing and, ‘for the first time, we are able to provide objective data that this is indeed the case’.

The study covered more than 100 million GP and nurse consultations at 398 general practices in England.

It concluded: ‘Our findings show a substantial increase in practice consultation rates, average consultation duration, and total patient-facing clinical workload in English general practice. These results suggest that English primary care as currently delivered could be reaching saturation point.’

They added that ‘indirect activities and professional duties’ not covered by the research had also increased.

Clear evidence

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘This important research confirms what the college has been saying for years. GPs and our teams are making more consultations than ever before, and our patients are living longer and with multiple, long-term conditions, meaning that our workload is growing in complexity as well as volume.’

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘This study provides clear evidence to support what every GP and patient knows: GP practices are working harder than ever, but are struggling to provide even basic levels of care.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘With an ageing population, GPs are seeing more patients with complex health conditions than ever before. That is why we are investing in safer seven-day services and boosting the primary care workforce.’

primary care workload box 580x454px

primary care workload box 580x454px


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Readers' comments (7)

  • God what kind of quality of care do you get in an average of 8.9 minutes

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  • Boyle's law predicts how the increase in pressure will be far more than the 16% extra gas from appointments.

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  • 2 of the biggest problems are:
    1. patients presenting with such minor illnesses like colds, that they know are colds, but 'just want a check'. they still take 10 minutes to do a proper history and examination, even though you and the patient both know they are simply colds.
    2. medicalising life's foibles

    if patients don't stop doing this, the workload will ever increase and quality of care will plummet.

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  • Ha! So long as politicians have a say in the NHS patients will keep on presenting with colds and will continue to have their Shit Life Syndrome medicalised.

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  • Shit life Syndrome.....
    Can we have a read code for that?
    Would love to put that on a sick note

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  • Patients perhaps don't realise the time pressure of consults, visits,
    letters, test results, complaints meetings.
    Being named responsible GP to be scapegoated when everything goes pair shaped
    A never ending hamster wheel
    Interesting to see how expensive private gen practice will be ensuring adequate remuneration for all the unseen work

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  • Private gen practice
    Work to time
    Bill everything
    Protected lunch breaks...?
    Dream on... Likely exactly the same but with corporate task masters

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