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Patient Safety at Risk Due to GPs’ Workload

Only one in 10 doctors have said that they offer safe care, according to a new poll. But what is the risk to patients as the health service attempt new measures to assess needs to counter GPs’ mounting workloads?

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The study, involving a poll of 5,025 British Medical Association members, found 84 per cent believe their workload is affecting the quality of the care they give to patients.

The Daily Mail has reported up to a third of GPs intend to retire or quit in the next five years, with one in eight posts now empty.

The fact that one in 10 GPs reported that because of their workload they are unable to deliver safe care suggests a serious risk to patients’ wellbeing.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA GPs committee, said: “We cannot continue to have a service that cannot deliver a safe and effective level of care to the public.

“… Many practices are being overwhelmed by rising patient demand, contracting budgets and staff shortages which has left them unable to deliver enough appointments and the specialist care many patients need”.

The concerns raised by GPs about their inability to manage their workload are not new.  They have an increasingly elderly population and with the reduction in community support and disability benefits, it falls to GP practices to care for these vulnerable patients. This is combined with unacceptable waiting times in Accident and Emergency Units.

Many of our clients have suffered injuries as a result of being refused a face-to-face appointment or due to the loss of access to community care and home visits.


GPs Assessing Patients’ Needs With Three-Minute Phone Calls

Attempts to lighten GPs’ workloads by screening with the 111 helpline fell short as unqualified call handlers sent too many people to A&E instead. The news of GPS assessing patients’ needs in three-minute phone calls so that only seriously ill people receive face-to-face consultations is alarming.

This strategy has been implemented across 180 surgeries in the UK, covering 1.7 million people. It involves receptionists taking down callers’ details for the GP to call them back to make an assessment.

Attempts to encourage self-diagnosis without more robust information available on how patients might safely trust their own judgement without a consultation is potentially dangerous to patients. It may also discourage many from contacting their surgeries at all.

Whilst surgeries are attempting to cope with increasing demands on GP services by arranging telephone triage services, to identify which patients need to be seen and which can be managed without an appointment, the reality is that many serious conditions are missed.

Many of our clients have suffered injuries as a result of being refused a face-to-face appointment or due to the loss of access to community care and home visits.

Lindsay Holt is a principal lawyer specialising in clinical negligence and healthcare law at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

The clinical negligence solicitors at Slater and Gordon specialise in claims against the NHS, GPs, private doctors and hospitals arising out of negligent medical treatment and acts on behalf of injured victims.

For a free consultation about a clinical or medical negligence compensation claim call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online and we will call you.


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