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GPs dreading ‘apocalyptic’ winter based on summer workload

GPs dreading ‘apocalyptic’ winter based on summer workload

Summer workload has reached levels typical for the coldest months of the year, according to GPs who are now dreading an ‘apocalyptic’ winter.

GPs said that they had 210 patient requests in a single day, that they were running out of appointments for the ‘first time ever’, and that appointments were running at 100% above 2019 levels,

This week GP leaders warned they have ‘serious concerns’ about the financial and workload implications of the autumn Covid booster programme starting next month.

Meanwhile, the RCGP has warned that general practice needs urgent support ahead of winter, including an immediate reduction of bureaucracy.

Surrey GP partner Dr Dave Triska said patient requests on Monday last week were up by around a sixth compared to his practice’s ‘worst mid-winter Monday’ a few years ago, before the Covid pandemic.

He said on Twitter:

He added: ‘It’s a risk sink service – always open, no cap. Combined with failure everywhere plus population angst and falling staff numbers perfect storm.’

Dr Triska told Pulse that this week’s Monday workload again ‘eclipsed’ previous winter workload highs, saying that ‘acute’ workload from patients contacting the practice about current issues such as anxiety, a cough or a headache has ‘skyrocketed’.

He said: ‘Last Monday was worse in terms of workload than our busiest mid-winter four years ago, yesterday eclipsed it again and additionally we had Covid absences in the staff amongst it.

‘The administrative burden generated by a heavy acute workload is crippling the practice at the moment; all available time is spent seeing patients with exhausted GPs having to cram in paperwork at all hours.’

He added that this is ‘not sustainable, not safe and made worse by the appalling expansion of our workload and an effective pay cut for partners who are, quite literally sadly, working themselves to death.’

And he said that ‘winter will be apocalyptic in and out of hospital’.

Mid Mersey LMC medical secretary and GP Dr Ivan Camphor also told Pulse that his summer workload is as high as he would expect it to be in winter, adding that it has ‘definitely increased’.

He said: ‘Part of the problem is that we’re doing more work through PCN, the stuff that’s not being done in hospitals because [of] early discharges or around pre-op assessments and also, the same old story of when a patient’s having a hernia repair done in the hospital or a hip replacement, they’re not coming out with a sick note. They come into the surgery for a sick note.’

He added: ‘We’re dreading winter because it’s going to get even worse. That’s the problem, and with little support.’

Surrey GP partner Dr Tim Bates said that in the last three months, his practice ‘ran out of appointments for the first time ever, 70% of the time’.

And Glasgow GP Dr John James O’Dowd also said: ‘We are running [at] about 100% higher demand on [the] base of 2019. Very, very high levels of distress and health anxiety. Still lots of hidden need.’

NHS England’s winter plan, announced last week, includes boosting hospital capacity with extra beds and increasing the number of call handlers working for NHS 111.

It also announced the ‘rapid recruitment’ of up to 2,000 additional social prescribing link workers, health coaches and care coordinators among measures to alleviate GP pressures.

NHS England has also set out a target to achieve ‘quick wins’ to improve access to GP practices before the end of the financial year, although it did not go into detail about what this would entail.

Additional reporting by Costanza Potter



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Turn out The Lights 17 August, 2022 10:45 am

System collapse here we come there are and will be no easy wins just continued collapse and system failure.I for one do not care I and we can only do so much,the point of no return was passed a long time ago.

Darren Tymens 17 August, 2022 11:19 am

* GPC Exec/BMA: reasonable limits need to be set on workload NOW. *
NHS can have what they are willing to fund, and we can find staff to provide capacity for.
They can’t expect more, especially when it comes of the expense of the workforce.
We are not an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Sometimes it seems that NHSE and the ICSs are playing ‘Buckaroo’ with us, seeing how much they can load us with before it all collapses.
* GPC Exec/BMA: we also need a dentist-style exit plan from the NHS as Plan B, otherwise there may well be no general practice left in England *

Patrufini Duffy 17 August, 2022 12:28 pm

Well, I don’t think so.
99% of surgeries are loving it – “working together” – saved by the PCN, “safety in numbers” – “working together” and truly salivating at winter access appointments, seeing other practice’s patients and getting nicely taxed on their efforts to save the UK from its woes and cataclysmic disasters. “Work, work, work” – keeps the elite separate from the other classes (they’ll need that, the riots are coming). Keep you working. Keep them appeased and occupied on the high street. Winter will be absolutely fine, GPs will sacrifice going to the toilet and eating to expertly cover up for the holes and Institutes, clap clap. More access, less respect. Go figure.

Cameron Wilson 17 August, 2022 12:43 pm

Can have more quantity if you drop the quality! Lets see GMC/CQC comment on that, could probably persuade retirees to help out if the usual nonsense of accreditation and accompanying drivel was cut out plus the medico-legal stuff was eliminated. Basically we work like what happens in third world countries:- see patients quickly, get it right 90% of time and other 10% take their chances. That’s the reality of the situation, but don’t expect recognition of the fact any time soon, whatever happens the fault certainly doesn’t lie with the workforce!

Jonathan Heatley 17 August, 2022 2:08 pm

Completely agree with Cameron. They cannot have both quality and quantity and this needs to be flagged up more.

Thomas Kelly 17 August, 2022 3:17 pm

All looks good for general practice. I for one am looking forward to not seeing my children due to the increased workload and back to Saturday shifts and more evenings. I mean that’s one of the main reasons we went into general practice isn’t it? A good work life balance?

John Glasspool 17 August, 2022 5:28 pm


The Locum 17 August, 2022 6:25 pm

The machinery is well an truly broken. I wish there were wheels left to come off.

Decorum Est 17 August, 2022 10:00 pm

I’m with Cameron Wilson as well.
The whole medico-legal complex, including the CQC, the GMC, Expert Witnesses, Ambulance Chasers, Appraisers (inc. HMG, BBC, Daily Mail etc), can ‘Go Fxxxxx themselves’. I like most ‘jobbing docs’, have been submitted to an excess of shite already.

James Weems 25 August, 2022 8:10 am

BMA GPC we need stringent workload limits to protect GP burnout.