A GP has started a petition calling for safe working hours in general practice, following the suicide of Dr George Porteous from Lockerbie Medical Centre, Scotland, in September.
The petition was created on world mental health day, 10 October, and has already gained 1,388 signatures in support of a workload cap.
North London GP Dr Anshumen Bhagat, who started the petition, said the lack of safe working hours is the main cause of the GP shortage in the UK, due to burnout, GPs leaving the profession and fewer doctors coming into general practice.
It also follows reports that 430 doctors died by suicide over the past four years, which Dr Bhagat said ‘has to stop’.
The petition has called for several measures to help with workload and the mental health of GPs, including:
- A new Government-funded study into the maximum number of sessions a GP should work per week/month that is sustainable and safe. This will assess the physical and mental strain on GPs today;
- Introduce an increased 15-minute appointment time, to enable GPs to treat patients effectively;
- A new general practice working time directive (GPWTD) to introduce a maximum working week/month;
- A new promise from the Government to recruit an updated number of GPs based on that GPWTD;
- An official channel for NHS GPs who are completing the GPWTD role to access and apply for non-patient-facing roles in the NHS and beyond, to combat fatigue.
Dr Bhagat said: ‘The incredible response to this petition from UK GPs who are struggling on the front line confirms the urgency for change, before it is too late.’
‘The comments left by GPs are what I hear in GP circles, on GP forums and when speaking to my colleagues all the time – this is real – general practice is in real trouble if major change doesn’t come soon.’
‘A working hours directive for GPs is a bare minimum of what is required to make the working life of a GP safe and sustainable. The time to act is now. We can’t lose any more GPs. We can’t lose any more lives.’
Dr Bhagat, who runs private GP home visiting service GP Delivered Quick (GPDQ), has also submitted an urgent request to meet with the health secretary Matt Hancock and public health minister Steve Brine to discuss change to GP working hours.
It follows calls for workload ‘black alerts’ by the BMA in March this year, which would see GP practices that face unsustainable workload divert or cancel all routine appointments.
The guidance, prepared by the GP Committee, suggested that 25 routine appointments a day were a ‘safe’ limit for individual GPs, whereas 35 were ‘unsafe’.