Are GP working hours safe?

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Leading official lays bare GP concerns

GP and senior Care Quality Commission official Professor Steve Field has stated that GP’s working hours will need to be closely monitored to ensure the safety of patients and the well being of staff.

The chief inspector of family doctors in England has also warned against the rising demands on exhausted doctors, with a recent CQC review highlighting the need for change in healthcare outside of hospitals. The analysis showed that there were big improvements made across night and weekend cover however Prof Field explains that doctors still aren’t detailing all of their working arrangements. Monitoring GP’s workload will be vital according to Prof Field.

He explains it will be “increasingly important as the number of GP’s available in some areas may be decreasing. This means that some local GP’s may be working excessive hours. Providers and commissioners need to be aware of the extent to which this is happening, to ensure the safety of patients and staff.”

GP working hours

Research by the Primary Care Foundation, a best practice organisation, confirms that two years ago only about 10% of GP practices now run their own out-of-hours services. However, GP’s contracted to different providers usually also worked during the day in surgeries, 40% of them working in the same local area for both jobs.

Prof Field told The Guardian that the way forward would be to integrate primary care services, with multi-disciplinary and urgent care service housed in the local hospital, with triaging through NHS 111, the non-emergency telephone service.

“What we are interested in at the CQC is the proof that if you join up services you can actually save on consultations, you need fewer doctors. It is so complex. Yes, we need more doctors because others are retiring, yes, we need more doctors because the population is increasing and patients are getting older and their cases are more complex but we are finding some surgeries don’t have nurses or have so few staff,” he said.

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