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Some GPs are working over 80 hours per week, health secretary reveals



A small number of Scottish GPs work between 80-89 hours a week, Government data has revealed.

The figures, based on the Primary Care Workforce Survey 2017, showed that these were the estimated ‘average’ working hours for four GPs.

Meanwhile, 21 GPs said they worked 70 to 79 hours per week and 50 GPs said they worked 60-69 hours per week.

More commonly, GPs worked up to 39 hours per week (61%) or 40-49 hours (30%), although 8% reported working 50-59 hours a week on average.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat Party, which unveiled the figures via a parliamentary question, said they showed GPs covering for rising demand and staff vacancies by working long days.

Data, also supplied by the Scottish Government, showed that just 92 out of 233 vacancies had been filled in the last six months up to 31 August 2017.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: ‘These new figures provide another worrying snapshot of the pressures that GPs across Scotland are under.

‘Working up to 90 hours in a week is the equivalent of seven consecutive 12.5 hour days. GPs were asked to calculate how many hours they worked in a ‘typical’ week so there is a real danger that there are instances of GPs working even longer hours.

‘The SNP are working doctors until they drop. GPs work incredibly hard but they will be the first to tell you that excessive hours risk patient safety.’

Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said: ‘The ground breaking new GP contract for Scotland – jointly designed and agreed with the British Medical Association – will help ensure that GPs are able to spend more time with patients and less time on bureaucracy. It will help reduce doctors’ overall workload and make general practice an even more attractive career prospect by allowing GPs to focus on the patients who need them most.’

It comes as official Scottish GP workforce data published last month revealed a 4% decline in full-time equivalent GPs over the last five years.

At the same time, the number of practices reporting a GP vacancy grew to nearly a quarter (24%), having stood at 22% in 2015 and 9% in 2013.

And it also showed over a third (36%) of GPs in Scotland were aged 50 years or over.

The BMA’s Scottish GP committee has said it hopes changes to GP practice terms and conditions will help to improve the workforce situation.

It has negotiated a new GP contract for Scotland, which started from 1 April and will be rolled out via a three-year transition.

This will see a new funding formula underpinned by additional investment and a guarantee no GP will earn under £80,430.

The Scottish Government has announced plans to invest £100m this year to implement the contract.

Data in full

Average Scottish GP working hours

Estimated average GP hours worked per week Headcount (N) Percentage (%)

Up to 39

2,269

61

40 to 49

1,109

30

50 to 59

296

8

60 to 69

50

1

70 to 79

21

1

80 to 89

4

<1

90 and over

0

0

TOTAL

3,749

100

GP posts vacant for over six months reported by responding practices for year ending 31 August 2017, by NHS Board area

NHS Board Unfilled VacanciesHeadcount (N) Filled VacanciesHeadcount (N) TOTAL VACANCIESHeadcount (N)

NHS Ayrshire & Arran

12

12

24

NHS Borders

0

2

2

NHS Dumfries & Galloway

10

4

14

NHS Fife

19

7

26

NHS Forth Valley

11

3

14

NHS Grampian

12

1

13

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde

11

12

23

NHS Highland

12

8

20

NHS Lanarkshire

13

10

23

NHS Lothian

19

16

35

NHS Orkney

0

1

1

NHS Shetland

5

3

8

NHS Tayside

13

8

21

NHS Western Isles

4

5

9

SCOTLAND

141

92

233

Source: Scottish Government/Primary Care Workforce Survey 2017