Safe Care: Why GPs Are No Longer Able to Offer It

84% of GPs feel they are not able to offer safe care to their patients due to overwork, according to new research by the British Medical Association (BMA).

The BMA surveyed over 5,000 GPs in England and only just over 1 in 10 said they felt they were able to deliver a good quality, safe level of service to patients. Nearly two-thirds of doctors surveyed called their workload “unmanageable” with just over a quarter saying that the excessive pressure they were under was having an impact on their standard of care.

BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul said:

“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 members of the public need.”

Previous research by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has shown that GPs feel their work is getting more stressful. The Royal College has also highlighted that GPs only receive around 9% of the NHS budget while they deal with around 90% of its patients.

Focusing on improving safe care in general practice

Since 1 April 2016, Patient Safety has been part of NHS Improvement. This means there is an increased focus on improving standards for patient safety within the NHS.

The NHS has released a series of webinars on improving patient safety in general practice which help to highlight ways of helping with key issues such as:

  • Preventing avoidable deterioration
  • Improving the safety of handover
  • Preventing medication errors
  • Mental health care safety

Ultimately, however, improving patient safety in GP care has to mean finding ways to reduce the workload and stress on general practitioners.

Finding solutions for offering safe care

At the start of 2016, the BMA outlined a series of measures designed to help improve standards, including the provision of safe care for patients, in a document called Urgent Prescription for General Practice.

This outlined five key areas where the BMA wished to see significant improvements:

  • safe, manageable workloads
  • more time with patients
  • increased practice funding
  • more staff to support GPs
  • less box ticking

One of the key ways to deliver on some of these goals, while improving the overall service GP surgeries provide to patients, is with an increased provision of out-of-hours care. This gives patients the option of seeing a doctor for more urgent matters outside of regular surgery hours, reducing the burden on GPs in standard practice.

Spreading the workload can also allow GPs to spend more time with individual patients and make it easier for them to manage their overall workloads. This helps to address several of the key points raised by the BMA.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) research also showed that nearly a fifth of patients surveyed said that their GP practice was not open at a convenient time for them. This demonstrates the potential appetite for greater provision of GP care outside of traditional surgery hours.

Increasing the provision of out-of-hours GP cover lessens the burden on GPs during normal surgery hours, provides a better service for patients and offers great opportunities for flexible working to GPs.

See the benefits of out-of-hours for GPs and patients

East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours Service (EBPCOOH) is a social enterprise run on a not-for-profit basis. We provide NHS services including urgent out-of-hours medical care for East Berkshire Clinical Commissioning Groups in Bracknell Forest, Slough, Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead.

Working out-of-hours can allow GPs to achieve a better work-life balance and improve their career prospects. Many of the doctors we work with have been part of our team for many years, benefiting from the flexibility to work when they want, where they want, and as much as they want. This allows them to fit their work around other commitments, such as child care.

We also offer a high level of support to all our GPs, including advice on issues such as providing safe care. So, if you want to find out more about working out-of-hours with EBPCOOH, please get in touch or why not check out our latest job opportunities?