Local GP leaders have voted against changing core working hours to 9am to 5pm following a lively debate at the UK LMCs Conference in York today.
The motion, proposed by Avon LMC, said ‘urgent action should be taken to manage the workload / workforce mismatch within general practice’, adding that it ‘demands that the core GP contracts be reduced to the hours of 09.00 to 17.00’.
The motion was lost, with 61% voting against, 35% voting for and 4% abstaining.
Delegates in York said that the current workload is ‘intolerable’, but there was concern from a number of speakers about pushing for definitive working hours and how it could hamper contract negotiations.
Earlier, delegates voted in favour of the BMA GP Committee ‘renegotiat[ing] the GMS contracts with workload limits in order to protect all general practice staff and patients’.
Ahead of conference, the motion drew much controversy, with a Daily Mail front page proclaiming ‘Now GPs want to work even less!’ following the publishing of the agenda.
Proposing the motion, Dr Shaba Nabi, a GP in Bristol and a Pulse columnist, said: ‘Our hours are at odds with family life.’
Dr Nabi said: ‘The outrage and the reactions to this motion just goes to show how gaslit we are as a profession, that we have internalised the belief that we are worthless, of no value and we should be working 12 and a half hours more than everyone else.
‘This motion does not deny access to urgent care – the excellent out-of-hours service has and always will be there to provide care for GP out of hours – and neither does this motion deny access to routine care in the evenings or the weekends because this needs to be commissioned separately from the core contract for GPs who wish to deliver this.
‘This motion will not deny patient access to GP care, but what it will do is keep patients safer.’
‘Our hours are completely at odds with any sort of family life so we continue haemorrhaging the GP workforce and do nothing about it.’
Dr Catherine Chapman, from North Yorkshire LMC, spoke against the motion, stating: ‘There is no doubt in any of our minds that our current workload and patient expectations are unsustainable but I don’t think reducing the core hours will improve this. Instead, we need to work smarter and more flexibly.’
She suggested moving away from standard morning and afternoon sessions to early morning clinics, starting after the school run or running clinics across the standard lunchtime hours.
She added that reducing core hours would ‘exacerbate health inequalities’ and ‘put even more pressure on estates that are already beyond stretched’.
Dr Emeline Dean, from Somerset LMC, said: ‘Changing opening hours is very confusing for the public whom we serve and doesn’t help us with support for our cause of safe, resilient general practice in the general media.
‘What we need is less work, not [fewer] hours to do the same amount of work in.’
Dr Zishan Syed, from Kent LMC and a member of GPC England, said the motion would be a ‘good protest motion…particularly in England’. He added: ‘We are being encouraged to approach the model of seven-day working eight to eight and that’s occurring through the trojan horse of the PCN DES.’
He added: ‘Our GMS contract is out of control and outdated – it is not fit for 2022. We need to send a clear signal to our leadership, that the present hours are unsafe. Use this motion to send a powerful signal to the Government that we oppose their plans for seven-day working, eight to eight, send a powerful message to our leaders – especially those in England – to make it absolutely clear to them to resist the weekend working that is being introduced in the PCN DES.’
More to follow