Full-time GPS a thing of the past, says new chief doctor
Intense workloads blamed as study shows only one in 20 trainees intends to work full-time in a GP surgery
GPS can no longer be expected to do the job full-time, the new head of Britain’s family doctors has said, as new research shows just one in 20 young medics intends to do so.
Patients groups said the findings were “alarming,” amid a national shortage of GPS that is contributing to longer waiting times.
The King’s Fund research found just one in 20 trainee GPS plans to be working full-time as a family doctor within a decade of qualifying, with most intending to do between one-and-a-half and three days a week. Prof Martin Marshall, who has just taken up his post as chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said the full-time job of a GP was now “undoable”.
In his first major interview since taking up the post, Prof Marshall, a GP in east London, said it would be wrong to think that millennial medics were more work-shy than previous generations.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “I think what this signals is that the job of a GP is now undoable on a full-time basis. The idea that we can see 50, 60, 70 patients a day, five days a week, is crazy.”
Such workloads meant risk for patients as well as doctors, he said.
“It is difficult to be as sharp on your 50th patient of the day, or [checking] your 200th blood test,” he said.
“Each one involves a clinical decision, it carries a risk, which is an innately stressful decision to make; it carries a degree of anxiety that you might make a mistake or misdiagnosis. Decisions can be life or death.”
Both Labour and the Tories have promised thousands more GPS.
But Prof Marshall said there would be “significant” workforce implications if so few doctors chose full-time GP roles. He also urged the public to think twice about whether they really needed to visit their GP, in a bid to reduce pressure on services.
JUST one in 20 trainee GPS intends to do the job full-time, research shows.
The study’s authors said their findings reflected the intensity of the workload facing GPS, and could mean shortages of doctors worsen.
Patients’ groups said medics were lucky to be able to afford to work parttime, with average full-time earnings of £113,000 a year for a GP partner.
The research, by the King’s Fund think tank, polled 840 trainee GPS – doctors who work in general practice, but are not fully qualified – and asked them about their future intentions.
One in 20 planned to work full-time as a GP within a decade of qualifying, with most intending to work between one-and-a-half and three days a week.
For the past five years, female GPS have outnumbered male GPS, with women often choosing the role because it was seen as more “family friendly” than hospital work. Now, 57 per cent of family doctors are female.
The research showed that men were almost as likely to want to do the job on a part-time basis, with 74.9 per cent of female trainees, and 73.4 per cent of male trainees, hoping to work a maximum of six half-day sessions, or three days a week. However, women were more likely than men to want to limit their duties to three half-day sessions.
Around half of the trainees polled hoped to have a “portfolio” career, including other work, such as research.
The prime reason for not wanting to work as a GP full-time was the “intensity of the working day”, closely followed by family commitments. Long working hours, high volumes of administrative work and work-related stress were other factors cited.
Already, less than one third of GPS work full-time, official figures show.
Last month, British Medical Association members voted to axe home visits, in order to lessen GPS’ workloads.
Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said: “The situation is alarming. A lot of people would like the luxury to work part-time, but meanwhile millions of patients are suffering, with longer and longer waits to see a doctor.”
Beccy Baird, a senior fellow at the King’s Fund and the study’s lead author, said recent political pledges to expand the number of GPS appeared to have used numbers “plucked from the air”, saying it was unclear whether they would be enough to tackle the crisis.
The Tories have pledged to increase total GP numbers by 6,000, while Labour has said it will increase the number of trainees annually by 1,500, meaning 5,000 are trained a year.
Ms Baird said: “GP workload is incredibly intense at the moment. It is too intense to work full-time. Seeing a patient every 10 minutes, or having phone calls with them, for eight hours a day plus four hours’ follow up – that’s not sustainable.”
Prof Martin Marshall, the new head of the Royal College of GPS, said the findings showed that doing the role full-time was now ”undoable”.
“The idea that we can see 50, 60, 70 patients a day, five days a week, is crazy,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
Figures from NHS Digital show that over the past year, the number of patients waiting at least a month to see a GP has risen by almost a fifth.
In total, 5.8 million patients waited over a fortnight to see their GP after booking an appointment last month – a 13 per cent increase compared with the same point last year.
Prof Martin Marshall, head of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said full-time work for GPS was ‘undoable’