When it comes to patients visiting their GP surgery, GP’s believe their patients are being put at risk when they come in for their appointment. A poll of 1,395 GP’s found only 13% said their patients where safe all of the time, with 70% saying the risk to patient safety was increasing.
Doctors identified patients are more at risk due to lack of time with patients, workforce shortages, relentless workloads and heavy administrative burdens.
A GP in Lincolnshire and the deputy chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, Dr Kieran Sharrock, commented that “The evidence shows that, after you’ve already made 25 to 35 decisions about patients’ health on a particular day, that as a GP the risk of making a bad decision goes up”. He also comments “That could be prescribing an ineffective medicine for a patient, or making a referral to hospital for them when it’s not needed or, worse than that, not making a referral when it is needed. For example, we miss a red flag sign of cancer because we are overloaded already with decisions.” Dr Kieran Sharrock is one of the leading individuals in a new campaigned called “Rebuild General Practice” which is calling for urgent action to improve GP services.
The former health secretary Jeremy Hunt is backing this new campaign and said “The workforce crisis is the biggest issue facing the NHS. We can forget fixing the backlog unless we urgently come up with a plan to train enough doctors for the future and, crucially, retain the ones we’ve got.”
Patients are waiting longer than before to get an appointment and 63% of GP’s said patients are at risk due to staff shortages. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “There has been an increase of more than 1,600 GPs over the past two years” although Boris Jonson had promised to boot the GP workforce by 6,000 by 2024-25. However, the current health secretary, Sajid Javid, has said the pledge will not be delivered either.
Medical Negligence specialist Simon Mansfield comments:
"The results of this survey should be a wake up call to the government. It is extremely concerning that more than 80% of the GPs in this survey felt that patients were being put at risk when they came into their surgery for an appointment. The fact that 2% felt that patients were “rarely” safe is further cause for alarm.
The key issues identified in this survey (lack of time with patients, relentless workloads and heavy administrative burdens) likely all stem from (or are worsened by) one key issue the workforce shortages. This is not surprising. When working under excessive pressure it is all to easy for issues to slip though the net, for a referral to be missed or a patient not called back. This applies in any work environment, but, when caring for patients, whilst sometimes nothing will come of this, sometimes (as I have seen) this can have tragic and life changing consequences.
It is worth highlighting as well that there is a risk that the situation could get worse before it gets better with the Guardian reporting last year that 23% of GPs (or more than 6,000) are over 55 and expected to quit in next few years. To ensure patient safety, it is crucial therefore that staffing is tackled as a priority."
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