GP pressures: We are failing patients - doctors' leader

Stethoscope Image copyright TEK IMAGE/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Pressures on GPs in England and Wales are so great they feel they are failing patients and potentially providing unsafe care, doctors leaders say.

British Medical Association GP leader Dr Chaand Nagpaul said doctors were having to rush patients to keep up.

And he said this could be potentially dangerous in terms of identifying cancer and getting medicines right.

But ministers in England responded by promising they would invest in services to address the concerns.

The frank admission by Dr Nagpaul comes as the BMA releases the results of an online survey of nearly 2,900 practices in England and 145 in Wales - about one in three of the total in both nations.

In England it showed that 55% thought the quality of the service their practices was providing had deteriorated in the past 12 months.

Some 68% said their workload was unmanageable, while 92% reported demand had increased in the past year.

Similar findings were reported in Wales.

Dr Nagpaul said: "It is unsustainable and getting to the point where it is not safe. The ageing population means many of our patients have multiple conditions and are on multiple medicines, but we simply don't have the time to properly consider how they interact.

"On cancer we are having to make rushed decisions. And we are seeing growing numbers of patients with dementia - and yet just have 10 minutes to see them.

"It's not enough. We are being forced to let down patients. We need to see more investment in general practice so we can keep up with demand and have longer 15-minute consultations."

GPs under pressure

Image copyright Science Photo Library
  • There are an estimated 370m consultations a year - up 70m in five years
  • One in 10 GP trainee places went unfilled last year
  • A third of GPs say they are planning to retire in the next five years
  • There are 32,628 full-time GPs - a rise of just over 500 in five years
  • The number of GPs per head of population has fallen since 2009 to 60.6 per 100,000 people in 2014

Figures cover England only

The issue has been raised by the BMA just a week after the NHS England report into the death of 12-month-old William Mead, from Cornwall, highlighted workload pressures as one of the possible reasons GPs failed to properly diagnose his chest infection.

Mr Nagpaul believes another 10,000 GPs could be needed to plug the current gap in England - the government has promised another 5,000 this Parliament, but that is expected to cover the push to provide seven-day opening.

To pay for this, funding for GPs will be increasing by 5% every year, the government has said.

Health minister Alistair Burt added: "General practice is at the heart of the improvement we want to see in the NHS. We recognise absolutely that it is under pressure, which is why we are delivering record investment.

"The health secretary will shortly announce further support for GPs, which should assist in meeting the pressures doctors are reporting."

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