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A third of GPs cut their hours in last year, with many blaming stress

More than a third of GPs in England have cut their hours this year as millions of patients struggled to get an appointment, report reveals

  • Survey found 36% of family doctors slashed their in-practice hours in 2019 
  • One in ten blamed stress, others cited fear of burning out due to huge caseload
  • Means just over half (56%) of NHS’ entire GP workforce is on a full time contract

More than a third of GPs in England cut their hours this year as millions of patients struggled to get appointments, a report has revealed. 

The General Medical Council found 36 per cent of family doctors reduced their in-practice time since the start of 2019.

One in ten blamed stress, while others said they were not given enough time with patients to deliver proper care or feared burning out.

It comes as waiting times to see a GP have soared to a record-high, with the average patient in England going two weeks before getting an appointment.  

More than a third of GPs in England have slashed their hours in the last year, with many claiming they’re too stressed out (stock) 

The report, which surveyed 3,800 doctors, found that a fifth are considering quitting medicine entirely within the next year.

It also found more than two thirds of them work beyond their contracted hours every day.

Some 92 per cent of them felt unable to provide patients with a sufficient level of care several times over the past year. More than a quarter felt this way every day.

The study also found GPs – who earn at least £60,000 a year – were inappropriately referring patients to hospital while stressed out by a high workload.

More than a third said they have made a patient referral not strictly necessary over the past year. A quarter of GPs did this at least once a month. 

Half of family doctors said they feel satisfied in their work, with many complaining of bureaucracy, time constraints and ‘unsafe’ working conditions.

Today’s study adds to evidence of a mounting crisis, with latest NHS figures showing the number of full-time GPs dropped by more than 300 in the past year.

Meanwhile, the number of GP practices in England is at a record low after 270 shut down last year, official figures show.

Waiting times for routine appointments are getting longer and figures in August showed the average delay was two weeks, rising to six weeks in some areas.

The crisis came to a head last month when GPs voted to stop carrying out home visits on the grounds that they were too busy.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘It’s not surprising to see more GPs reducing or planning to reduce the number of clinical hours they work.

‘Working “full-time” in general practice is simply not doable for many, and this is causing GPs to burn out, or leave the profession earlier than they planned to because they feel they cannot guarantee safe standards of care for their patients.

‘It makes sense that GPs are making choices about their career to safeguard against this.’

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: ‘Ensuring doctors have supportive and compassionate workplaces is vital and will be the focus of much of our work in 2020.

‘But the incoming Government must also listen to, and act on, concerns that are being raised by us, employers, patients and doctors.’

Solving the NHS crisis is a priority for the new Government. Health secretary Matt Hancock has pledged to increase the number of GPs by 6,000 – including trainees – by 2023/24.

Official NHS Digital figures in August showed the NHS lost almost 600 GPs in the last year. 

Almost as many family doctors left the health service between June 2018 and June 2019 as did in the entire three years to March.

The losses again highlight the failure of the Government’s pledge to hire 5,000 extra GPs between by 2020. 

Suzie Bailey, director of leadership and organisational development at the King’s Fund, said: ‘Staff shortages in the NHS are creating a vicious cycle of increased pressure on doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, which in turn leads to more of them choosing to reduce their hours or leave their profession altogether. 

‘Research by the King’s Fund showed less than three in every 10 trainee GPs intends to work full time in general practice one year after qualifying. 

‘The intensity of the working day was the most common reason for choosing part-time work, with some GPs concerned about maintaining standards of care as they grappled with increased workloads. 

‘The new Government’s plans for health and care will rely on having adequately staffed services.

‘As well as recruiting more staff, it is crucial that services hold on to and develop the staff they already employ.’

Only a third of GPs are working full-time in surgeries 

Fewer than a third of GPs are working full-time in surgeries amid a crisis in appointment availability, NHS figures reveal.

Just 27.5 per cent of family doctors are practising full-time and this number has plummeted in the past four years.

The trend is having a knock-on effect on patients who are struggling to make an appointment, particularly with their preferred doctor.

Figures published this week by NHS Digital show that 27.5 per cent of GPs currently work full-time in surgeries, defined as at least 37.5 hours a week. 

But this proportion falls to 18.9 per cent in the northern part of south-west England, including Somerset and Gloucester, and 19 per cent in Cumbria and the North East. 

The number of GPs working full-time had fallen sharply from 34.3 per cent in 2015 – the year data was first collected – to 30.7 per cent last year. 

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