Research from the University of Oxford published in The Lancet prompts concern that GPs are facing a workload crisis. Their workloads rose by over 16% between 2007 and 2014 due to more frequent and longer consultations.
According to GP Online, GPs had to fit in almost an entire day’s worth (80%) of additional work over a five-day working week in 2014 compared to 2007. The results follow warnings from GP leaders that general practice is on the verge of collapse from a combination of workload pressures, sustained lack of investment and falling workforce numbers.
The report warns that, in addition to longer and more frequent consultations, GP time spent on referrals, teaching, auditing or professional development has also risen in recent years. The increase in the number of older people and children under five in the population, who tend to rely more heavily on GP services, is fuelling the increased workload.
Commenting on this report, Lucie Prothero, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, said: “Unfortunately, we see many cases of negligence for failures in general practitioner care. The most common examples include failures to act upon signs and symptoms of cancer and to instigate appropriate referral; failures to properly consider and act upon abnormal test results; delayed diagnosis and referral for diseases such as meningitis; and failures in communicating information to patients.
“It is positive news that cancer patients have become more proactive in recent years in visiting their GPs when worried by their symptoms - and the various annual awareness campaigns have worked hard to promote this. But if GP resources become so overstretched that GPs do not have the time to properly assess a patient, look for patterns of repeated symptoms and carry out referrals, mistakes will inevitably continue to be made at the cost of patient lives. Therefore this analysis from the University of Oxford not only highlights the problem of overworked GPs but needs addressing to protect the general public.”