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GP fatigue endangering patient safety, RCGP warns

GP fatigue is in danger of jeopardising patient safety on a ‘widespread scale’ unless urgent action is taken, the RCGP has warned.

It says in a statement today that there are dangers of medication errors and mistaken patient identity if there continues to be ‘unrelenting and increasing workload pressures’.

The statement comes after Pulse revealed that almost half of all GPs are at high risk of burnout, while NHS England has been cutting GP occupational health services.

The RCGP’s paper, Patient safety implications of general practice workload, calls for regular, mandatory breaks for staff, a mechanism to identify practices under extreme workload pressures and a review of how to reduce pressures through cutting bureaucracy and unnecessary workload.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘GPs will always work in the best interests of their patients – even when they are putting their own health at risk – but ironically this can actually have an adverse effect on patient safety.

‘Few of us would voluntarily board a plane flown by a visibly tired pilot or get on a train where we knew the driver had spent too much time at the controls – yet there are no methods or systems for addressing doctor and staff fatigue in general practice.

She added: ‘GP fatigue is a clear and present danger to patient safety – and we urgently need to find workable solutions that will keep our patients safe now and in the future.’

GPC education, training and workforce subcommittee chair Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, said: ‘GPs want to provide better services and spend time with their patients, but we know that escalating workload, inadequate resourcing of general practice and unnecessary bureaucracy is affecting the delivery of patient care.

‘A recent BMA survey found that nine in ten GPs believe that their heavy workload has negatively impacted on the quality of patient services, which highlights the need for urgent action.’

The RCGP’s consultation paper will be sent to the DH, NHS England, CQC and the GMC among others ‘in a bid to open up a debate about GP fatigue and burnout – and come up with solutions for tackling the problem’.