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NEWS: Gimmicks no answer to growing practice pressures

by in GP Practice Management, News

Problems in general practice will not be solved by political gimmicks, a senior GP warns today, as a survey shows new evidence of the pressures facing doctors.

The survey of 1,500 doctors found the majority now say they do not have adequate time to assess patients – and most think patient safety is at risk because consultations are at risk.
Pollsters ComRes conducted the survey for the Royal College of GPs and found that 78% reported working longer than their contracted hours at least one a week. Doctors said they had found it hard to recruit other GPs but also to recruit practice nurses.
Some 31% said they were unlikely to be working in general practice in five years’ time.
Speaking at the Royal College of GPs annual conference in Liverpool, its outgoing chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said “arbitrary targets” would not solve the problem of unacceptable waiting times for appointments.
Professor Stokes-Lampard will finish her term of office next month – and will go on lead a social prescribing project for the government, it was announced today.

Speaking to the conference, she was due to say: “Do not take us for granted. Do not make any rash decisions about our service or introduce gimmicks that might be vote winners but would ultimately set back general practice 20 years. History has taught us that access targets in general practice do not work. We must learn from those lessons, not repeat them.

“We must first be offering what our patients need, not what politicians want. If unrealistic targets are imposed on our profession, it will crumble, and if general practice crumbles, patients won’t be able to see a GP, at all.”

She added: “Our members are telling us they are more optimistic, but that the workload is still unmanageable; that many GPs are working unsafe hours and it is taking its toll on their own health and wellbeing; that many are scared about the impact this is having on their patients.

“Yes, we have promises for more investment into general practice – and there are very welcome signs this is finally getting to the frontline. But many GPs are still telling us that running a practice is unsustainable; that they are planning to hand back the keys and that they plan to leave the profession sooner than they would have done.”

* Professor Stokes-Lampard is to be chair of a new national academy of social prescribing, it was announced.
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