General practice nearing ‘saturation point’

A new study has revealed that GPs’ workloads have risen by 16 per cent over the last seven years, with doctors dealing with more frequent and longer consultations. At the same time  the number  of GPs is not rising fast enough to keep pace with population growth.

According to the authors of the study, published recently in The Lancet, general practice is now nearing “saturation point” and the demands have increased substantially, with recruitment in the profession remaining low while the population in England is steadily increasing and developing more complex needs.

The study, the largest ever of its kind, was based on analysis of more than 100 million GP and nurse consultations at 398 general practices in England between 2007 and 2014. It found that the average number of annual consultations per patient rose by 13.67 per cent for doctors, with the average patient now seeking almost four GP visits each year.

Meanwhile, the number of nurse consultations rose by 2.76 per cent, the number of face-to-face GP consultations rose by 6.38 per cent and the number of telephone consultations nearly doubled.  In addition, average consultation time has also increased, with most appointments lasting almost nine minutes. The authors warned that, as the time spent with a patient nears the 10-minute allocated slot, doctors and nurses have little time to perform other duties before seeing other patients.

Although the total number of GPs increased over the study period, the authors said that this actually represents a one per cent decrease in the number of GPs per patient, falling from 60.9 GPs per 100,000 patients in 2007 compared with 60.6 in 2014.

Commenting on the study, a spokeswoman of the Royal College of GPs, said that the report should ring alarm bells for the Government and spur ministers into action to address the crisis in general practice before it’s too late.


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