GP Jobs: Why Working Out of Hours Works

With the government putting more and more emphasis on the need for more flexible GP hours, attention is turning to the benefits available to doctors who work outside of normal surgery hours. Many doctors find that they prefer working out of hours to standard GP hours, whilst patients are also experiencing the benefits.

About working out of hours

Working out of hours provides a greater deal of flexibility for both patients and doctors, allowing for busy lifestyles revolving around work and personal lives. It also ensures that patients across England get the help they need sooner, without having to rely on emergency health services like A&E. Out of hours work not only includes surgery and face to face consultations, but also video and phone consultations, as well as corresponding and giving advice through email. Out of hours operating hours vary depending on the locality but usually operate from 6pm-8am in the evenings/overnight, as well as weekend and bank holiday opening.

Why working out of hours works for GPs

GPs can benefit from working out of hours in a number of ways, with some of the key benefits including:

  • A change of pace from the usual 9-5, providing different sorts of patients and a different way of working.
  • The opportunity to improve triage skills.
  • There are benefits for those looking for some flexibility in their personal lives.
  • Evening and weekend work can be preferable for those who prefer their leisure time to be outside of busy periods.
  • Greater controls over shifts – less likely to work extended shifts making hours and salary more appropriate.
  • Strong working relationships with other colleagues working out of hours because of the sense of a ‘shared experience’.
  • More variety in terms of the patients seen.

Working out of hours may also suit doctors who prefer the nature of GP work but want to experience it with some more variety. The nature of out of hours work means that doctors will rarely deal with regular patients and therefore do not have to deal with ongoing treatment. This can lead to less stress in the role and ensure a better work/life balance for doctors.

Why working out of hours works for patients

Ultimately, it is patients who are able to benefit from a higher take-up of doctors who work an out of hours shift pattern. Patients have greater flexibility in when they are able to see a doctor, and don’t have to worry about it affecting their work or personal lives. Patients needing more dedicated care can benefit from being able to receive constant care from doctors as an out of hours provision can mean that GP surgeries are put under less pressure during the day. Out of hours services are designed to provide an alternative to A&E and aim to get less people to go to hospital, reducing wait times and freeing up beds for patients with more serious needs, thus improving the overall care and treatment for everyone.

When the news around extended GP hours was first announced back in 2014 the Chief Executive of NHS England said:

“By freeing up hard working family doctors to spend more time with their sickest patients, and by making it easier for other patients to get through to their GP surgery for help and advice at evenings and weekends, these initiatives have the potential to be a win-win-win for patients, their doctors and the NHS.”

With benefits for patients, doctors and our health services, there are a lot of positives to consider when it comes to out of hours working. At East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours, we value and take great care of our doctors. We also support initiatives to make out of hours working more widespread and to deliver better services for patients. If you have any questions about how out of hours working works or are thinking about working as an out of hours GP for East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours, we’d be very happy to hear from you. Please contact us for further information.