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Nearly 40% of Scottish GPs say they ‘cannot cope’ at least once a week

Over one in three GPs (37%) in Scotland feel so overwhelmed by daily tasks, that they ‘cannot cope at least once a week’, according to a report by RCGP Scotland. 

The report, called ‘From the Frontline’, ran a survey of its members last year and found over a quarter of its 355 respondents were unlikely to be working in general practice in five years’ time.

The report, which forms part of the RCGP new ‘Renew GP’ campaign, showed that most days, almost one in three (26%) GPs do not get a break of 10 minutes or more.

As a result, RCGP Scotland has called to be involved in how workload is measured in Phase 2 of the new Scottish contract. It has also asked for a longer standard appointment time of 15 minutes, and to change the focus of appraisal to ‘prioritise wellbeing and minimise paperwork burden.’

It follows a vision report by RCGP that suggested that 15-minute appointments were ‘the future of general practice’

In its key demands, the Scottish RCGP report called for: ’RCGP Scotland involvement in how workload is measured for Phase 2 of the contract, to capture and reflect the complexity and diversity of our workload challenges in different settings.’

The RCGP Scotland has recently recruited a clinical lead for wellbeing, in response to recognising ’the impact that poor practitioner wellbeing and burnout can have on patient safety’, according to the report.

It added: ’RCGP supports the call for the establishment of dedicated health services for doctors in Scotland, similar to the Practitioner Health Programme in England, to help address some of these issues of access and stigma.’

In response to the report, BMA Scotland said addressing GP workload was ‘vital if we are to protect and grow GP numbers’.

The campaign adds to the UK-wide ’Fit for the Future’ report published last month, which set out the RCGP’s vision for manageable GP workload and 15-minute consultations in general practice by 2030.

RCGP Scotland chair Dr Carey Lunan said: ‘General practice is at the frontline of the NHS, playing a crucial role in providing care to patients in the heart of communities across Scotland. GPs tell us that workload pressures, rising patient demand and underinvestment in general practice are having a significant impact on them and their patients.

‘Nearly 40% of GPs report that they feel so overwhelmed by their daily tasks that they feel they cannot cope at least once per week. A quarter also report that they are unlikely to be working in general practice in five years’ time.’

The campaign also repeats its demand for the Scottish Government to allocate 11% of the health budget to general practice.

Dr Lunan added: ‘We are calling on Scottish Government to commit to urgently bolster the GP workforce and increase the level of spending in general practice to 11% of the overall Scottish NHS budget. Taking these steps will help ensure that general practice is able to provide high-quality patient care that meets the current, and future, needs of patients in Scotland.’

BMA Scotland’s GP Committee chair Dr Andrew Buist said: ‘GPs work tirelessly to ensure that their communities are living healthy lives, and even against the backdrop of underinvestment in healthcare, rising patient demand, and increased workload, they do a sterling job.

‘They are the first line of defence for our country against ill-health, and they need more support in tackling health inequalities. This report underlines why addressing GP workload, which has in recent years reached unsustainable levels, is so vital if we are to protect and grow GP numbers. That has been the BMA’s priority in negotiating the new GP contract and now it is essential that the promises made to GPs on additional staff and services are delivered by health boards and the Scottish Government.’

A non-binding motion was previously passed in Scottish Parliament to allocate 11% of the health budget to primary care.