Exclusive More than half of GPs say they are working above safe limits, on average completing 11-hour days and dealing with a third more patients than they say they should be, findings from Pulse’s major workload survey reveal.
Full-time family doctors are on average dealing with 41 patients in a day – when GPs said the safe limit should be 30, according to Pulse’s survey of 1,681 UK GPs.
Some are seeing far higher numbers of patients – around one in ten deal with 60 patients or more in a day.
Meanwhile, they reported the intensity of work was high, with GPs saying 29% of their patient contacts – a mixture of face-to-face, phone, online appointments and home visits – were ‘very complex’, and 37% were ‘fairly complex’.
GP leaders said the findings showed the profession ‘was working far beyond their capacity’ and warned the level of workload was affecting GPs’ own health and posing a risk to patient safety.
Pulse asked GPs to provide details about their day spent in practice on Monday 11 February to reveal the workload pressures facing the profession.
The results found GPs’ 11-hour average working day comprises eight hours of doing clinical work, alongside three hours of administrative duties.
Around 51% of GPs said they were working beyond safe levels.
The majority of respondents said it was a typical day of work for them, and some said they had made errors due to the volume of tasks they completed.
One GP who took part in the survey said: ‘By lunchtime I felt on the edge and risked missing urgent tasks and contacts, thus affecting patient safety. I did miss the fact that a patient I had tried to contact earlier in the day had called back, so I didn’t call her back before the surgery closed.’
Dr Matt Mayer, former BMA GP Committee workload policy lead, said: ‘The results of the survey done by Pulse are concerning, and confirm GPs are working far beyond their capacity.
‘GPs currently are making themselves ill in this job, and it isn’t sustainable.’
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘In my own practice recently, I had a 12-hour day and 100 patient contacts – GPs across the UK will tell similar stories.’
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘We already know that general practice is under pressure which is why investment in local doctors and community services is increasing by £4.5billion, helping fund an army of 20,000 more staff to support GP practices as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
‘But we are also aware that almost nine out of 10 salaried GPs currently work part time.’
The findings follow a recent report on doctors’ mental health from the BMA, which found nearly nine out of 10 GP partners are at high or very high risk of burnout.
BBC’s Panorama is reporting Pulse’s survey results and investigating patient safety, workload and GP recruitment in its film ‘GPs: Why Can’t I Get An Appointment?’ on BBC One, 7.30pm, 8th May.
Additional reporting by Karl Tomusk