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80% of GPs spend more time inputting information from secondary care

Exclusive Almost eight out of 10 GPs are spending more time each day on inputting data received from secondary care, compared with last year, with some finding they have to spend up to an hour a day recording communications.

A Pulse survey of 453 GP found 79% said they had noticed an increase in the amount of time they spent inputting information frrom secondary care over the past 12 months, while only 10% said they had not and 11% didn’t know.

Asked to give an estimate of how much extra time they are now spending compared to 12 months ago, many GPs said it was taking up to an hour extra each day.

GP leaders said that practices are receiving large amounts of information from hospitals that are not coded properly.

The survey results have further underlined the extent of workload pressure that GPs are under, raising new questions about GPs’ ability to reduce pressure on hospitals and emergency services.

Dr Soong Yap, a GP in Birmingham, said he was spending ‘an extra 3-4 hours a week’ just to chase clarification or instructions from secondary care, while an Essex GP, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the hospital ‘seems to think I am their house officer’.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘I think what is happening is that there are more people being seen in secondary care with information needing to be recorded [by their GP] not only for QOF but for other purposes. But also previously they might have just made a note of the letter and now they extract information from a letter and record it on a system. One of the problems is that practices are still receiving large volumes of paper that is not coded properly, or the key bits of information are not so obvious. So it takes time for practices to extract that information.’

To help reduce the workload on GPs from inputting data, ensuring greater standardisation across primary and secondary care will be necessary, he added.

He said: ‘I think one of the things that we need to see is a greater standardisation of information recorded in primary and secondary care, so that the information relevant to the patient and the health service as a whole is recorded in the same way so that it is easy to extract that information. When, ideally, information is extracted electronically from hospital to practices – or the other way around – then we will not need to spend a large amount of time extracting data from letters.’

It comes as a King’s Fund report last year concluded that GPs were hindered from coordinating care of their patients due to their ‘intense’ workloads and last month a Pulse survey showed that one in seven GPs was planning to refuse to take up the unplanned admissions DES – focused on coordinating care for the most vulnerable patients – due to not coping with workloads.

Survey results in full

Have you noticed an increase in the amount of time your practice spends inputting information from secondary care over the past 12 months?

Yes: 79%

No: 10%

Don’t know: 11%

About the survey: Pulse launched this survey of readers on 15 April 2014, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 25 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on any one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletters, with a prize draw for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey. As part of the survey, respondents were asked to specify their job title. A small number of non-GPs were screened out to analyse the results for this question. This question was answered by 453 GPs.