At a time when practices are being shut down at record rates, staff resignations are rising, and over 20% more GPs are presenting with burnout to the NHS Practitioner health service. It is now not uncommon for GPs to report up to 60 clinical encounters per “half day.”
Having successfully delivered over 75% of Phase 1 and 2 Covid-19 vaccines and while remaining at the forefront of covid care in the community, GP surgeries have continues to deliver their usual routine medical care throughout the pandemic, despite what certain parts of the media would have you believe.
GP surgeries simply cannot sustain such an overwhelming workload. It is simply not possible.
Responses from a recent BMA members survey (July 2021; just over 2050 overall respondents) showed:
- just over half (51)% of respondents said they are currently suffering from depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, emotional distress or another mental health condition
- of these, one in five (23%) are suffering ‘worse than before the start of the pandemic’
- just under half (47%) plan to work fewer hours after the pandemic
- slightly more than two in five (44%) plan to work more flexibly / from home more
- over one in 10 (16%) plan to leave the NHS altogether.
The number of GPs choosing to work part-time has been climbing. Although, ‘part-time’ as a GP very often means working over 40 hours a week and a considerable number of additional unpaid hours just to get through the large numbers of appointments, delivering the workload of more than one member of staff and patient follow-up (administrative) work.
Fewer doctors are looking after greater numbers of patients
Insufficient investment in the GP workforce does not prevent patient numbers from rising. In fact, despite there being 1,704 fewer fully-qualified FTE GPs today than there were in 2015, each practice has on average 1,849 more patients than in 2015.
There are now just 0.45 fully qualified GPs per 1,000 patients in England – down from 0.52 in 2015. For the GPs that remain, this means increasing numbers of patients to take care of. The average number of patients each GP is responsible for has increased by around 300 – or 15% – since 2015.
At the same time, the number of practices is also falling. While many practices have entered into mergers, surgeries can also be closed for other reasons, for example:
- inability to recruit staff and GP partners
- no longer viable
- partner retirements
- CQC closures due to under resourcing.