Is Part-Time Working The Key To General Practice?

GPs love their jobs, but in recent years the ‘GP burnout’ has become a growing problem. All too often, doctors find themselves working later hours, completing increasing volumes of paperwork, and trying to see as many patients as possible. With concerns over workloads and increasingly busy waiting rooms, the pressure on GPs is growing. With more and more GPs reducing their hours, is part-time working the key to general practice?

The rise of part-time GPs

The latest figures show that more than two-thirds of GPs work less than full-time. In the last five years, the number has been increasing – something that’s been described as ‘unsurprising’ by experts. Despite being part time, however, many doctors are still working a full week in order to cope with the demand. Meanwhile, more than 20% of GPs are working 60+ hours a week.

Long days and feeling ‘burnt out’ is a key reason behind the switch to part-time working, as GPs try to find the right work/life balance. One of the consequences of this is that patients miss out on a continuity of care, while it could also lead to extra pressure on those who continue to work full-time.

The news has led to concerns in the press that part-time GPs ‘pose a terrifying risk to patients’, and it’s feared that the number will continue to rise as a large portion of trainee doctors have stated that they will not be seeking full-time work when they qualify. Many are attracted to the prospect of locum work, and want to avoid the longer hours faced by existing GPs.

Is part-time working the answer?

While there are concerns around the extra pressures faced by GPs who continue to work full-time, there’s argument to be made that a part-time GP, who is better rested, is preferable to a GP who is feeling burnt out or is even on sick leave because of the stress of the job.

The new generation of GPs can bring their passion and innovation to the field, and will likely take on portfolio work and flexible working to change their approach to the profession. With the problems for GPs likely to continue, part-time working could be one solution to ensure patients receive better quality care.

Reduce stress through out of hours working

While part-time GP work could be one solution, another could involve working out of hours. Out of hours is a less-stressful career choice for GPs, helping doctors to find the right work/life balance. The nature of out of hours working means that triage is a much more significant part of the role, and the work rarely comes home.

Through out of hours working, GPs can experience a difference side to the profession and benefit from avoiding long-term cases and patient care, as well as the paperwork that goes with it. It’s also seen as being a more sociable working environment because of the ‘shared experience’ of practice workers. GPs who work out of hours can retain full-time hours, but without the increased workload. Out of hours offers patients more flexible medical care and is a service that could be used more widely in the future to help patients fit in appointments around work and their other commitments that make ordinary GP hours difficult.

With several solutions available to GPs to help them avoid quitting the position altogether, part-time working or out of hours could be effective solutions to the issues currently experienced by GPs.

If you’re interested in finding out more about out of hours working, check out our blog for further insights into the role. You can also find details of out of hours vacancies in East Berkshire in our jobs section.